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Meet the 2014 AFI Filmmakers #4: Shira Geffen Finds Unexpected Comedy With ‘Self Made’

Meet the 2014 AFI Filmmakers #4: Shira Geffen Finds Unexpected Comedy With 'Self Made'

Indiewire invited AFI FEST directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them and the challenges they faced. The festival runs until November 13.

Shira Geffen’s “Self Made” is as cosmopolitan as it is unique. In French, Hebrew and Arabic, the film tells the story of an Israeli artist (Sarah Adler) and Palestinian store clerk (Samira Saraya) who switch lives after a mix-up at a government border. The film is far from the rough, action-y grit you might expect from a thriller set in the middle east. While “Self Made” is far from a straight comedy, it includes an unusual vein of dark humor and surrealism that adoring critics have latched onto. Here is Geffen on her process, getting money for the film, and her inspirations:

Biggest challenge in completing this project?

“My biggest challenge in the making of the film was the financing. It took me more than five years to raise the funds, mainly because each grant required that I explain the film. It was a challenge for me to do so because I still was not clear with my own vision of the film, and I really didn’t want to figure the actual vision out until I start the shooting. In retrospect I think this long wait was an advantage as it allowed me to rewrite the script again before the shooting.”
Did you crowdfund?
“The film got financial support from three government funds: Israel Film Fund, Jerusalem Film Fund, and the New Fund for Cinema & TV.”
What camera did you shoot on?
“Arri Alexa.”
Advice for first-time filmmakers?
“Surround yourself with talented and professional crew.”
Did you go to film school?
“I did not study film but rather acting. But I stopped quite fast as I did not find the female roles in films to be interesting or challenging enough. ‘Jellyfish,’ the first film I co-directed with my husband, Etgar Keret, was a fascinatiing journey in which i learned many new skills and abilties which allowed me to gain the confidence to direct my last film on my own.”
What films have inspired you?
“Here are some of so many: ‘A woman under the influence,’ John Cassavetes; ’12 Monkeys,’ Terry Gilliam; ‘Mulholland Drive,’ David Lynch; ‘The Tenant,’ Roman Polanski, ‘Blade Runner,’ Ridley Scott; ‘The Truman Show,’ Peter Weir; ‘Fantasia,’ Walt Disney; ‘The Decalogue,’ Krzyztof Kieslowski; ‘Eyes Wide Shut,’ Stanley Kubrick.”

READ MORE: Karlovy Vary Review: Shira Geffen’s Cannes Favorite ‘Self Made’

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