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March 27, 2008 7:06 AM
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ND/NF '08 INTERVIEW | "Jellyfish" Co-director Etgar Keret and "Munyurangabo" Director Lee Isaac Chu

Scenes from Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen's "Jellyfish" and Lee Isaac Chung's "Munyurangabo." Images courtesy of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

In the first of two interviews running over the coming days as part of the spotlight on New Directors/New Films series in New York, indieWIRE received short responses from co-director Etgar Keret's Festival de Cannes Camera'd'Or winner, "Jellyfish" (Meduzot), also directed by Shira Geffen set along the scenic Tel Aviv seaside about the lives of three women. Also screening in the series is Lee Isaac Chung's "Munyurangabo," about two boys of opposite ethnicities set against the backdrop of the end of Rwanda's genocide. The films will screen during the event taking place now though April 6.

JELLYFISH

Winner of the Camera d'Or at the 2007 Festival de Cannes, Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen's "Jellyfish" (Meduzot) tells the story of three very different Tel Aviv women with intersecting stories. Batya, a catering waitress, takes in a child apparently abandoned at a local beach. She works as a server at teh wedding reception for Keren, a bride who breaks her leg and is unable to go on her dream Caribbean honeymoon. Also attending the event is Joy, a non-Hebrew speaking domestic worker who feels guilt for leaving her son behind in her native Philippines. All three travel through Israel's largest city dealing with issues of communication, affection and destiny... Zeitgeist opens the film theatrically beginning April 4 in New York.

Responses by "Jellyfish" co-director Etgar Keret

What initially attracted you to filmmaking?

Being a fiction writer was what attracted me mostly to filmmaking with the chance to collaborate with other creative people and to break that loneliness of writing and creating completely on my own.

What was the inspiration for "Jellyfish?"

It started from a short story Shira [Geffen] wrote about an early childhood memory of hers as a child inside a lifesaver [and] being forgotten in the sea water by her parents at a Tel-Aviv beach. This feeling of being taken away from the beach by the current was the driving force behind the screenplay.

Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film.

I think that while fiction writing is all about "speaking" filmmaking is much more about listening, that was the first and most important lesson I had on our first day of the shoot. Before executing my ideas, I should listen to all my partners' ideas. A fiction writer is very much like a cook but a film director is more like a gourmet eater.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in making and completing the film?

The biggest challenges and the most frustrating moments were never creative. The creative part was relatively easy. It was things like getting the budget, or winning that extra hour of shooting that were the most stressful and difficult moments for me.

What are your goals for the New Directors/New Films series?

To meet a new audience and listen to its input. Being still new at filmmaking I'm learning right now how people see and experience the film and in many cases it is in a very different way than I would have.


Munyurangabo

Lee Isaac Chung's "Munyurangabo" is set against the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. The story follows two young men, one Tutsi, the other Hutu trying to build futures by putting their futures behind them. For Munyurangabo, this means seeking justice for his parents, who were killed during the fighting... His friend Sangwa, however, he hopes life will change after he visits his family whom he had fled. Both reach Sangwa's parents' home, but the couple are weary of Munyurangabo because of his Hutu lineage. The film won the grand jury prize at the 2007 AFI Fest.

Responses by "Munyurangabo" director, Lee Isaac Chung

What initially attracted you to filmmaking?

I enrolled in a video class to fulfill an arts requirement at university. I [then] decided against applying for medical school and started looking for the right film school instead.

What was the inspiration for "Munyurangabo?"

The opportunity to volunteer in Rwanda arose because of my wife's work there and her desire to return. I initially wanted to teach filmmaking, and this idea evolved into making a feature film with and for locals.

Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film.

I spent nine weeks in Rwanda with the first six weeks spent interviewing people in Kigali, many of whom I cast, and then spent a week preparing to shoot. We filmed for eleven days using a nine page
handwritten script, relying on improvisation and daily morning writing sessions while shooting the film in sequence.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in making and completing the film?

There were a number of challenges in shooting a film in Rwanda, but I think they were much less exotic than what some might expect. Really, we encountered the same problems others would in the States: permits, finances, scheduling... It's clear that film making is a tremendously difficult venture, but I think there is a great reward to that.

What are your goals for the New Directors/New Films series?

No goals for me, I will take it as it comes, whatever it is.

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