Head to Head With Moshe Ivgy

Moshe Ivgy, what's it like to work behind the camera after acting for so many years?

Maya Sela
Maya Sela
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Maya Sela
Maya Sela

The Jerusalem International Film Festival kicked off last Thursday, with eight movies vying for best full-length feature. One of them, "And on the Third Day," is the first film directed by Moshe Ivgy - one of the most admired, loved and busy actors in Israel's recent film history.

Moshe Ivgy on movie set. Credit: David Bachar

The movie, set in Tel Aviv, follows seven individuals after each one has undergone a personal crisis. In a broader sense, it depicts a society that has lost its way - a society that is breaking down.

The movie is reminiscent of Robert Altman pictures: It is replete with different characters who eventually cross paths in the end.

Of course I was greatly inspired by Altman, along with other directors. I discovered this style when I was very young. Films that reflect a chunk of living and breathing life, with layers to it, is what speaks to me. Rich films, filled with details. This shows something beyond one small element; they reveal the world in which the characters live, the social context.

The third day of creation was the day when all the negative elements were created. The Haftorah on Pinhas includes a statement about the third day. It says 'Get up, God' and make some order here because things are a mess and no one knows whether they're coming or going - there is corruption, chaos. Get on with it, do something. My movie also takes place over three days.

You don't sound too optimistic.

That's not true. There are moments of grace. At the end of the movie the characters in love meet up again and reconnect. The film ends with a beautiful song that seems to have been written just for it: Berry Sakharof composed the music and sings, and Micha Shitrit wrote the words. It's called 'City of Summer' and the words go: 'Now let's eat and drink wine, afterward we'll dance and the house will rise over me. Now we'll jump, and after we'll fall. We'll fall silently, we'll fall into each others' arms.' In other words, sometimes you need something huge, a catastrophe or a big explosion, to understand proportions, priorities - to see how we waste our lives on nothing, go around and around the short life we've been given.

You've been acting in films for many years. What's it like to move over to the other side of the camera and direct?

It's fascinating and exciting. An amazing experience. You can't understand it until you are actually doing it. I wanted to do something and I did. For me, this is huge. I don't know what people will think about the movie, but I poured my heart and soul into this project, and with a big goal in mind. It's a very personal movie for me. I would say what the boom man said to me every morning: 'This is your amusement park, isn't it?'

I was like a kid choosing from tons of games at an amusement park. I was regarded as someone who came to party, and that was true, that's the way I see the film industry. I don't see the suffering and misery in it. Misery is part of the process until you get there, but if you don't party when you're already there, it's a waste of time.

Do you fantasize about being nominated for the Academy Award for best foreign language film?

Why not, who doesn't? I think the film is worthy of the honor. But in the end it remains to be seen whether the members of the Academy have the courage and innovativeness to select this film. It's not a typical film; it isn't a drama. It is a film with other aspects to it. We've gotten strong responses so far, but that's what the Academy is for - I can't dictate anything to them. They will do their job; I've done mine.

The director and screenwriter Dover Kosashvili said a few months ago that Israeli film is crippled, pathological and wounded. Do you agree with this statement?

Not at all. Israeli cinema is constantly developing and it has its ups and downs. Because we don't make 200 films a year, there are only one or two good ones every year. As far as percentage, that's the way it should be. When only 15 films are made a year, you can't expect that all of them will be good. Statistically, it's just not logical. How many good American films are put out every year? You can count them on your fingers - and that's out of 1,000. So what do we expect?

"Ajami," "Lebanon" and "Waltz with Bashir" were all made in the last few years. Fantastic films have been produced here. We make few movies, we make an effort and struggle and you constantly have to reinvent the wheel, but we are certainly on our way. Israeli film has a presence in the world and it's not for nothing.