Giving Life to Bereavement

Noam Nadav is the curator of a project that presents stories of fallen soldiers in animated videos.

Why remember fallen soldiers by means of animated short films?

I’m the curator of the exhibition “Faces. Day. Memory,” on the website of Jerusalem’s Beit Avi Chai, something of an artistic director and adviser in animation and film direction. The reason we’re using animation is so that we can be present in a medium that is appropriate for news media, especially the Internet. Another reason is that animation contains an emotional aspect that is sometimes more effective than [what you find] in a conventional film.

What you’re saying, then, is that in some way, there is an element of submission, or at least adjustment, to the target audience, the younger generation.

I very much hope so. But not only them – everyone who is willing. You know, these days, young people are not the only ones using the Internet and searching YouTube – and Facebook is altogether the preserve of older people. The kids and the younger generation are all on WhatsApp.

How do you transform a personal story into something that is moving but avoids clichés and tear-jerking?

There are no preset rules; that’s the miracle of art. The board of directors of Beit Avi Chai [“a cultural center that addresses major issues and fields of thought and creativity in Jewish and Israeli society,” according to its website] received stories from associations of Israeli army widows and orphans, and others. They chose stories that seemed to them to be of general interest and also diverse in character, so that there would not be too many similar stories in the same year. That was followed by scriptwriting, storyboarding and character design – a process of complex stages in which one can also examine what is unfolding. In practice, it took between four and five months. We’ve been working on the project as a whole since last summer.

Was there a dialogue with those who sent the stories?

A very limited one. We received stories that were based on interviews and families’ memorial books, but we were not in touch with them during the work process. That’s a good thing, because otherwise you could never come up with a film. If you work in cooperation with the interested parties and they intervene in the creative process, you really can’t work properly. At some stage, you have to sever the story from its natural surroundings and transfer it to the territory of the creative artists. Naturally, there is a basic approval of the films at the beginning and the end, but during the course of the work, there is no connection with the families.

Did you receive interesting feedback?

I know that there was one family that initially did not like the film at all, but afterward they understood and accepted what was done. Of course, I am not at liberty to say which family. At first, there were those who were taken aback by the way the film confronts the family’s memory, but afterward there was far better acceptance.

How do you see the future of commemoration in the multimedia era?

I wish I could say. If I knew, I would certainly be able to make money from it. I hope that this little zone will continue to exist and will have a growing audience along with feedback from the viewers.

Savion Nadav