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Meet the 2012 Tribeca Filmmakers #18: 'The Flat' Director Arnon Goldfinger

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire April 11, 2012 at 11:30AM

Arnon Goldfinger had different expectations for his life than becoming a filmmaker when he was a kid. "We lived in the provincial town of Ramat Gan where I spent most of my youth adjacent to the chess board," said Goldfinger. "It seemed like my professional life would take a more scientific route. I guess that plan started to become undone when at the age of 17 I happened upon a screening of Alain Resnais’ 'Hiroshima Mon Amour' and it took my breath away."
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Arnon Goldfinger

Arnon Goldfinger had different expectations for his life than becoming a filmmaker when he was a kid. "We lived in the provincial town of Ramat Gan where I spent most of my youth adjacent to the chess board," said Goldfinger. "It seemed like my professional life would take a more scientific route. I guess that plan started to become undone when at the age of 17 I happened upon a screening of Alain Resnais’ 'Hiroshima Mon Amour' and it took my breath away."

Since then, Goldfinger has directed two films. His second film, "The Flat," will be playing at this year's Tribeca Film Festival.

What's it about: "After my grandmother passed away at the age of 98, my family and I go to empty out the flat and soon discover hints to a mysterious and painful past. I begin to follow the clues."

Director Goldfinger says: "Ever since the very first screening of the film, this has been a central dilemma of mine; how much or what part of the information revealed in the film is possible, or even worth divulging. The conflict is obvious – the film unfolds as a detective story and revealing too much information could interfere with the viewing experience. Two interesting things happened after the film was shown here in Israel; people who saw the film and recommended it to their friends refrained from exposing too much information about the plot of the film, as if there was some sort of unspoken code. And a second thing that happened was that there were quite a few viewers who saw the film and then returned a second time to see it – even though the element of surprise was obviously no longer there.

"I view every film as a commitment to undertake a long journey. I suppose this has to do with my need to leave no stone unturned, and sometimes to even dig deeper into the mine. It also stems from a hope that the process of making a documentary might be a process that will have an impact on my life. I worked on 'The Flat for 5 years. My previous film, 'The Komediant' (which had theatrical distribution in the US) took me four years to make. And at the same time I also teach script writing and directing at Tel Aviv University. I take care to only teach courses about fiction film. I believe that this balances and broadens my documentary work. This tension between my need to tell a story and a reality that is often chaotic and unexpected, is perhaps what attracts me to documentary filmmaking."

What would you like Tribeca audiences to come away with? "When I made the film I thought that the fact that in my family 'we do not talk about the past' was unique. Since then I have been amazed to discover to what extent this is common in many other families. Many viewers have left the film with the feeling that they have a lot of questions for their own parents which they never asked. At the same time, other viewers felt that they have a lot that they never got around to telling their next generation.

"The film has created quite a few inter-generational conversations – often about topics that were previously off limits. I tend to believe that the audiences at the Tribeca Film Festival will react similarly.

"I would be most happy to learn that my film touches people and makes them want to understand their family roots as well. The United States is also a country of immigrants, many of whom were uprooted at some point – how many people know what their grandfather did? What was it that their grandmother longed for in her old country? What were the secrets that they were hiding? And what is the meaning of all this in their lives and the lives of their families?"

Inspirations: "I don’t think that I can point to any specific film because of the way in which the making of this film evolved. I started shooting all on my own without knowing where it would take me. My grandparents' flat had always had special meaning for me and I wanted to film there before the flat was emptied out and the world that was preserved there would be gone forever. After that a camera-person joined me and we both continued to film without knowing if anything significant would happen. And then, slowly over time, we started to uncover things in the flat. Things that were a bit disquieting. So the research broadened and new characters emerged, unexpected ones. The crew expanded until the point that we became a German-Israeli coproduction. It would not be an exaggeration to say that while I was still in the process of making the film, it did not cease to transform and surprise me."

Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they're doing next. We'll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.

Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch for the latest profiles.

This article is related to: Meet the 2012 Tribeca Filmmakers, Tribeca Film Festival