Editor’s Note: This is one of dozens of interviews, conducted via email, with directors whose films are screening at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival in the narrative and doc competitions as well as the Discovery section. The festival takes place April 22 – May 3.
“A Matter of Size”, Feature Narrative, 2009, 92 min., Israel
Directed by: Erez Tadmor, Sharon Maymon
Primary Cast: Itzik Cohen, Irit Kaplan, Dvir Benedek, Alon Dahan, Levana Finkelstein, Togo Igawa
Screenwriters: Sharon Maymon, Danny Cohen-Solal
Producers: Chilik Michaeli, Avraham Pirchi, Tami Leon, Daniel Bauer, Oliver Simon
Co-Producer: Antoine de Clermont-Torrenne
Director of Photography: David Gurfinkel
Editor: Einat Glaser-Zarhin
Synopsis: In this touching, lighthearted comedy, an overweight, underemployed chef and three close friends abandon their weight-loss group to pursue an activity for which girth is a virtue: sumo wrestling. While training, they discover the soul of sumo, realizing that–fat or thin–love and success will only come from being true to themselves. [Synopsis courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival]
(Answers provided by co-director Sharon Maymon)
What were the circumstances that lead you to become a filmmaker?
Ever since I remember myself I was chronically addicted to cinema. I always knew that I want to make film, so much so that I never thought about an alternative. Woody Allan and his cinematic style have had a great influence on me, especially his film “Annie Hall”. I admire his ability to produce a romantic comedy that analyses human relationships and at the same time deconstructs the structure of the medium as well as the plot. Already during my army service I signed up for cinema studies at the “Camera Obscura for Arts” where I met Erez Tadmor, my co-director in the film “A Matter of Size”.
What prompted the idea for “A Matter of Size” and what excited you to undertake it?
The idea for “A Matter of Size” came up when I understood that I wanted to deal with the subject of self-acceptance. During my research for an original way of dealing with this subject I came across the art of Sumo wrestling and chose to write a story about the coming out of the closet of shame of a bunch of really fat guys. Since I grew up in the small city of Ramle, Israel, it was only natural that my heroes would also be from Ramle, based on various characters I knew there.
Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making your film.
I directed this film together with Erez Tadmor. The idea was to combine Japanese and Israeli elements in our style of directing. It was clear that we would film the scenes of Sumo training in a way that they would remind Japanese paintings. Nevertheless, we took care to inject also enough Israeli and oriental elements from the city of Ramle. Of course it was most important to film our heavy weight actors in the most beautiful and aesthetic way possible. Since it is a comic drama we decided on a steady camera instead of handheld which might have given the film a realistic rough surface. Apart from that we wanted to give the film the appeal of a modern fairy tale that takes place in the city of Ramle. The first part of the film is shot in grayish colors that turn colorful at the moment that our hero meets Sumo that even warm up when they begin to wear the traditional red Sumo shorts later on.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing the project?
The biggest challenge during our production was the Sumo training. We wanted the Sumo scenes to look as professional as possible and it was clear that we had to study it thoroughly. So, we traveled to Japan in order research the world of Sumo: there our guides took us from one Sumo university to another, we watched their tournaments and interviewed students. In addition to that we had our actors go through some exhausting Sumo training und an Israeli Sumo trainer three months before the shoot began.
How do you define success as a filmmaker, and what are your personal goals as a filmmaker?
From my point of view my success as a creator is defined through the work itself and the steadfastness to realize my cinematic vision as a film maker, when I succeed in entertaining my audience and yet to pass on some kind of underlying important message. Also in my last film “Mortgage” which I directed together with Tal Granit, it was important to me to tell a comical story with a social message. I believe that cinema can make a difference and that is why my films will always serve the treatment of social issues.
What are your future projects?
My next film is a black comedy called “My Sweet Euthanasia”. Writing and directing will be done together with Tal Granit who collaborated with me also on my first film “Mortgage”. The story evolves around a group of pensioners who live in a protected residence and are fed up with the legal system. They decide to take matters into their own hands and form an ‘independent Euthanasia committee’ that will lend a helping hand to their dying friends in need of assistance. The rumor about this “Secret Euthanasia committee” travels from nursery to nursery, from exercises at the beach in the morning to the bowling halls in the evening and old people come knocking on the doors of the “Secret” committee.