The sibling film-making duo talk to Sarah Cooper about the third film in their trilogy, which screens in Directors’ Fortnight.
Brother and sister filmmaking duo Shlomi and Ronit Elkabetz have written, directed and produced Gett: Le Process De Viviane Amsalem, the third film in their trilogy following To Take A Wife and 7 Days, which centres around an Israeli woman trying to obtain a divorce. It will screen in Directors Fortnight.
How did the trilogy come about?
S: 10 years ago, I was living in New York, Ronit in Paris and she said she had an idea for three films, but we didn’t know exactly what was going to be in the stories. They have evolved from year to year.
To Take A Wife explored a woman’s internal dialogue with herself, 7 Days she is in the middle of her family and society and in the new film we put this woman in front of the state and the law. It’s a very unique point for us, not only finishing this film but also closing the circle with our heroine, Viviane, who we’ve dealt with for the last 10 years.
You throw up some shocking facts about Israeli divorce laws and the treatment of women…
S: The basis for our film is the absurd fact that in Israel, a woman can’t decide if she wants to live with someone or not. Her husband must choose to give his wife freedom. This is the reality.
R: Every day I was in shock working on this. It’s very difficult to understand, in the democratic way we live in Israel that this is still the law.
Are you hoping your film will open discussions about whether the law should be changed?
S: This law has been around for 4,000 years, and it has not changed an inch. But I really hope it will evoke a serious conversation and of course we will be acting upon it, when the film is out in Israel. It will put it into people’s awareness.
Did you always aspire to work together as brother and sister?
S: It was always our dream to work together. We breathed the same air as kids, we ate the same food, weve seen the same sights, we heard the same music, many of our memories are the same memories. It was always our dream to work together.
I directed Testamonies alone, but I missed working with Ronit. I don’t think I would ever be able to make a film other than Ronit, because it’s so intensive. You need to be so open and so patient and listen and accept something within yourself.
R: For me, this relationship is so huge, so special, so human, so beautiful. To create and live and to share my dream, there is no greater gift.
How does the filmmaking process work for you?
S: First we manifest the idea of the story together, then we close ourselves in some place and work on the script 24 hours a day. At some point we put camera into the room and play with the cinematic language. We cast together, we rehearse together. 99 percent of our choices we see eye to eye. Usually when we don’t agree on something it’s a key to elevate the creation. It’s a point where we want to take the story into new places.
As writers and directors, did you find the producing part challenging?
S: I need excitement and for me producing is an adventure, It was really interesting to understand that part of the film and I enjoyed it. It’s always difficult to get money for films, it doesn’t matter who you are and what you do, especially for our type of directors. But it was one good surprise after another when we were raising funds for this film. People read something in the story and connected to it.
Ronit, you also star as Viviane in the film. How challenging was it to write/direct and act at the same time?
R: It’s a big challenge, but the more I know, the deeper I can explore the character. As actors, we try to build real life around the characters. For me, it’s been a reality for 10 years. I’ve learned a lot about myself and how to improve my life.
Ronit, you are one of a handful of women directors with films in competition at Cannes…Would you like to see more?
R: Each year there are more women, but still, every year there are never enough. We need to speak about our lives, because we can do it better than anybody.