With Rabies (2010) and now Big Bad Wolves, former film lecturer/critic Aharon Keshales and his student Navot Papushado are Israel’s first and foremost genre filmmakers. Here, they discuss the state of both film and the nation, and how they are helping to kick-start a revolution in Israeli film. Text: Anton Bitel
“You have nothing to worry about, OK,” says Navot Papushado, with a not-entirely-reassuring laugh, after Aharon Keshales, his co-director and co-writer on Big Bad Wolves, informs me that they have both been trained to murder.
“Everybody in Israel who went into the army knows how to kill a guy,” Keshales says. “And we wanted to do a movie that portrays this kind of reality, that when something bad happens, all your basic instincts, all the things you learn in the army, kick in. Then you get this outrageous comedy of a gang of males who knows what to do. It’s really scary stuff, because if you weren’t in the army, you don’t know about taking a blowtorch to a guy or taking a saw to someone’s neck, but if you went to the army, it’s like a national hobby.”
It is in part because real terror has been so tied into the fabric of Israel’s short history, and in part because of a conservative industry, that genre has taken so long to emerge in the national cinema. “For years we were hearing the same things, that we had enough slaughter on our hands and terror in the streets not to have to see more on the screen,” Keshales explains. “But I think that’s more to do with the industry. Everybody who goes to Tel Aviv University, where I taught, is on a mission to become the next Spielberg, Cronenberg, Carpenter, you name it. They go out of school, and next thing you know their minds have been abducted and they want to be the next guy who makes the ‘good’ art-house [film] to go into Cannes. It’s the chicken and the egg, you know; the world expects Israel to make serious films about the conflict or war, and we make the films we think the world expects us to do. I think everything started to change when the world saw Rabies.”
“People are more eager and more excited to do genre films nowadays,” comments Papushado. “It’s still very early to say there’s a big movement towards that, but people feel freer to explore.” “State-supported funds have to approve your scripts,” adds Keshales. “In Rabies we didn’t even send [the government] the script because we knew they’d be shocked! So we decided to do the film without funds, but when we had a rough cut we knew we’d need their help in order to finish post-production. Luckily they loved the movie and helped us finish it. With Big Bad Wolves it was a lot easier. After the success of Rabies, especially internationally, we decided to give them the script and see where it got us. Their reaction was superb, and they gave a green light right on the spot. After watching the Big Bad Wolves rough cut they were walking on clouds!
Big Bad Wolves is out in UK cinemas in December 2013.