Israeli Winner of Berlin Festival Dares Culture Minister to Watch His Film

Nadav Lapid says the fact his film was financed by the Culture Ministry is 'the supreme expression' of Israel's democratic character

Aya Chajut
Aya Chajut
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Nadav Lapid poses with the Golden Bear for best film after the awards ceremony of the 69th Berlinale film festival, Berlin, Germany, February 16, 2019.
Nadav Lapid poses with the Golden Bear for best film after the awards ceremony of the 69th Berlinale film festival, Berlin, Germany, February 16, 2019.Credit: AFP
Aya Chajut
Aya Chajut

Nadav Lapid, creator of the film “Synonyms,” which won the Golden Bear prize on Saturday for best film at the Berlin International Film Festival, said at a press conference in Israel that Culture Minister Miri Regev called him recently to express her condolences over his mother’s death.

“I really appreciated that, I assume she knew that my mother’s opinions were opposed to hers,” Lapid said on Sunday. But he didn’t spare criticism of Regev’s actions as culture minister. “There’s a lot of missed opportunity during her tenure. I’ll be very happy if she watches the film from beginning to end and gives her opinion. It’s no less interesting to show the films to people with opinions that differ from mine. I’m not afraid of a public uproar and I’m not interested in it.”

Lapid’s film is the first Israeli work to win the top prize awarded at one of the world’s most prestigious film festivals. It was filmed last year in Paris, and tells the story of Yoav (played by Tom Mercier), an Israeli who lands in the French capital and hopes to be saved there from the Israeli craziness. The script is based on Lapid’s experiences as an Israeli living in Paris, and he wrote it with his father, Haim Lapid. His late mother, Era Lapid, edited the film until shortly before her death from lung cancer last year. It will be released in Israel on February 28.

“My mother was the most loyal and significant artistic partner in my life,” said Lapid at the press conference. “She edited all my films, both short and long.”

When Lapid was filming in Paris it was discovered that his mother had terminal lung cancer, but his parents decided not to tell him until he returned to Israel. “We spoke on the phone every day and I didn’t know anything. She decided to keep it secret in order not to interfere with the filming, and to prevent a dilemma for me which of course would have ended [the filming]. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that she’s watching us from somewhere. For me she exists most of all on the screen, in the editing cuts she did and didn’t make.”

Lapid said the fact that the film was financed by the Culture Ministry is excellent PR for Israel. “People abroad are convinced that it’s impossible to make such films in Israel with government support,” he said. “It’s the supreme expression of the fact that this is a democratic country.”

Lapid also spoke about foreign reactions to his film, most of which don’t see it as being critical of Israel. “Many journalists are pleased that the film criticizes the French a bit, apparently there are people in the world who don’t like them. Many French journalists said it excites them that a foreign director comes and says all kinds of things about them. Even though the French culture minister praised me.”

He also said that the festival judges told him the choice of the film was unanimous, and that he’s still getting accustomed to being “an Israeli ambassador in the world.” He said it’s very exciting – he got even more congratulations on the plane than at his bar mitzvah. “My film is most of all about Israel and what it means to be an Israeli, and it’s success is connected to this place.”

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