The Israeli director talks about her controversial third feaure, about an incestuous relationship.

It would be an understatement to say reviewers are finding Keren Yedaya’s That Lovely Girl a challenging watch. “Bleak and dour”, “gut-wrenching”, and “punishing” were some of the more positive adjectives used to describe the film when it made its debut in Un Certain Regard at Cannes in May.

But Yedaya is unperturbed by the response to her third feature, following the Camera d’Or-winning Or (2004) and Jaffa (2009). That Lovely Girl is an unblinking and clear-eyed drama about the incestuous relationship between a young woman and her father, starring Maayan Turjeman and Tzahi Grad.

“What interests me is to have the courage to put out there all the questions that people and society do not know how to handle,” Yedaya says. “I wanted to speak about incest. What it is, what it looks like, how it makes you feel, what it makes of your thoughts and what it does to your body. Of course it’s horrible to see a father raping his daughter for an hour and a half, and she is cutting herself and blaming herself. I’m not surprised by the reaction at all.”

Yedaya is a passionate advocate for the rights of women and children in Israel and around the world. Her aim is for That Lovely Girl to ignite a public debate about incest and ultimately to bring about social change with the introduction of a law to provide more help to struggling parents of young children.

“I want us to talk about what we can learn about incest from the film and what we can do about it as a society,” she says. “Victims of incest are ashamed because they often still love their parents and so think it’s their fault. In my film I’m speaking about this love, this taboo.”

The warm and funny Yedaya laughs when recalling the reaction to her film in Cannes. She says she loves to hear from the critics. “As a director I have a dialogue with them,” she explains. “Of course I ask myself, ‘Did I do my best? Maybe I need to start it differently? Did I miss a point?’ But the answer is — for me, for this subject — that this is the way to handle it.”