Husband-and-wife film-making team Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen won the Camera d'Or at Cannes last month for Jellyfish, a surreal drama inspired by US indie films. Edna Fainaru reports.
Etgar Keret is a celebrity at home in Israel. A prolific writer of short stories and graphic novels that have been translated into 24 languages, his TV sketches redefined Hebrew satire. One of his short stories, Kneller's Happy Campers, was adapted as a US indie film called Wristcutters: A Love Story, which premiered at Sundance last year and will be released theatrically in the US in August by AfterDark Films via Lionsgate.
At the age of 40, Keret decided it was time for something new. The $1.5m Jellyfish (Meduzot) is written by his wife, Shira Geffen (who also shares a directorial credit), and is a collection of three loosely connected short stories about young women in contemporary Tel Aviv.
Like jellyfish, Keret explains, the women are carried along by prevailing currents and have little control over their destinies. The film has some autobiographical themes.
'One story is about a couple whose marriage starts the wrong way, similar to what happened to Etgar and me,' says Geffen. 'The other is about a Filipina woman taking care of an old lady and is inspired by an incident my grandmother went through.'
Geffen, who has been closely associated with Keret's work in recent years, is the daughter of well-known Israeli poet Jonathan Geffen, and the sister of local pop icon Aviv Geffen. As such, she has grown up in the world she describes in her script.
'Shira comes from the theatre - there the conflict is the thing,' says Keret. 'I write prose, which is more about building characters and plots around them. Shira thinks micro, I think macro.'
Keret's experience with graphic novels helped with the visuals. With his French cameraman Antoine Heberle, he would plan a sequence and then bring it to Geffen for approval.
'In her eighth month of pregnancy, she would look at our suggestions while I would chase the crew,' explains Keret.
The most precocious member of the cast, Nikol Leidman, was just four years old when the film was shot. Although she does not have any lines, she has plenty to say off-screen. Does she want to be an actress when she grows up' 'I'm an actress already,' she replies.
Jellyfish played in Critics' Week at Cannes last month, winning the Camera d'Or for the best directorial debut. Pyramide International is handling international rights and will release in France later this year.