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From a Jerusalem Bakery to a Romanian Village | Eran Riklis on “The Human Resources Manager”

From a Jerusalem Bakery to a Romanian Village | Eran Riklis on "The Human Resources Manager"

Eran Riklis’s new film, “The Human Resources Manager,” follows a man who is stuck in a particularly uncomfortable time in his life. Unhappy at home and disgruntled with his job, the HR Manager of Jerusalem’s largest bakery gets more than what he bargained for when one of his company’s foreign workers is killed in a suicide bombing. The company is suddenly accused of indifference and it is up to the HR rep to travel to the victim’s hometown in Romania to make amends with the family.

indieWIRE corresponded with Riklis this week for an interview where the director talked about his career, film and an upcoming project.

The road to becoming a filmmaker…

I’m based in Tel Aviv but work with the world which means I believe that local stories can go far and wide and touch people everywhere. I always wanted to tell stories, I always wanted to be a musician (piano if possible…), I always wanted to paint, draw comics…and so becoming a film maker seemed to be the best way to somehow absorb all of the above into one medium. So that’s what I did – and here I am…

How the film came about…

The film is based on a book by a well known Israeli novelist called A.B. Yehoshua. This particular book was suggested to me by the producer and once I read it I felt very quickly that the words, the ideas, the characters, could easily become part of my next film. This was after “Lemon Tree” and “The Syrian Bride,” two films that dealt with the heart of the Middle East conflict in, I hope, a different way than would be expected. So now was the time to paint another canvas which starts in the heart of Jerusalem after a suicide bomb but goes deep into the heart and mind of a man that has to learn something about human resources….

Important themes in making the film…

Realism, love for my characters, being close to the action and to the people, being with them on the journey which becomes almost a classic road movie. And humor….always very important for me and in this case, with a grim story, an essential tool. The HR manager’s journey in Jerusalem and then more so in Romania became my journey as well, I felt that in order to tell his story in a convincing, emotional way, I have to become him and take my crew and cast through the same journey – so the events in front of the camera slowly became a part of what was happening behind the camera – and so I think I managed to convey the journey, physical, psychological and emotional, in a convincing way with no filters between the audience and the screen.

Some of the challenges in the production…

Minus 20 degrees celsius…snow…one lane roads…but the truth is it all seemed easy to me as I was bursting with energy and felt I can take off my coat whenever and wherever…but seriously, the film had the usual challenges a low budget Israeli film faces – waiting for responses from the various funders in Israel, Germany, France and
Romania, figuring out how to shoot in two countries within a limited time frame, facing a new country (Romania) and all the other almost routine issues film directors (and producers) face. But it was all worth it…

On how audiences will experience the film…

I always try to make communicative, accessible movies, whatever the subject matter is. I think the in this film, the combination of a good, original story, fascinating, complex characters, humor, visual beauty and a good pace should inspire the audience and help them both enjoy the 103 minutes with us and think about them later.

Cinematic inspiration…

Whatever I do, I’m always inspired by the same films that I saw years and years ago: “Mirror” (Tarkovsky), “Five Easy Pieces,” “Chinatown,” “The Grand Illusion” (Renoir) and “The Amrican Friend.” What do they have to do with the Human Resources
Manager? Not much…and yet everything…

A new film coming…

I already shot and edited my new film (it was a busy year…). It’s called “Playoff,” starring Danny Huston, and I shot it last summer on location in Germany. It is a haunting story about a Holocaust survivor who 40 years later is called back to Germany to coach their national basketball team. It will be completed over the next couple of months and I love it…

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