12. apr. 2016

Horror-Unrated Retrospekt #12: Vi har snakket med instruktøren bag Israel's første horrorfilm "Rabies"; Navot Papushado.

Efter 4 år har vi valgt at lukke og slukke for Horror Unrated. Med tiden fik vi hevet en hel del spændende og dybdegående interviews i hus, fra de store kendte horror stjerner til ukendte independent filmskabere. Af forskellige årsager valgte vi at lukke for Horror Unrated d. 12. november 2013, og da undertegnede tidligere har været skribent for denne fantastiske blog, Sørensen Exploitation Cinema Proudly presents, valgte jeg og bloggens ejer at flytte de mange interviews over på bloggen så de kunne få nyt liv, og forhåbentlig blive læst og nydt af nye læsere. Skrevet af Claus Reinhold.

HORROR UNRATED: Hi Navot and welcome to Horror Unrated. Rabies is your debut film, so let’s talk about how you and Aharon Keshales got together and decided to make a horror film – how did this whole project begin and how did you come up with the story?

It’s a great question. You know, I was a student at the film department of Tel Aviv University and actually Aharon was my teacher there. He was kind of the only teacher who encouraged me to do what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to do everyday dramas or dramas about dysfunctional families. Instead I wanted to do something more extreme and he was the only teacher who understood what I wanted to do and he encouraged me to do that. So eventually we became really good friends and he ended up producing my graduation film which actually premiered in New York, at the New York Film Festival, and while we were there we took a trip to Atlantic City, just to experience a bit more of America while we were there and we began talking about what will be the next project now that I had finished my graduation film. And Aharon, at the time, was also a film critic in Israel, a very well known film critic, so I asked him; “How about you stop writing about films and start making them?”, and from then on, we started working together.

We knew right away that we wanted to make a horror film because there were no horror films, or genre films in general, being produced in Israel, so Rabies is actually the first ever horror film from Israel. And we knew that we wanted to make a sort of a slasher film, because we grew up on films like Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and all those classic films, but at the same time we felt that during the last 10 years the horror genre has taken a turn into the torture porn genre and has become more and more gory and extreme at the expense of the films’ identity, I mean, it’s like the films sort of lost their identity. So we wanted to bring the identity back and make a slasher film that would be unique to Israel, you know, make it very Israeli.
 At the same time we set out to make a slasher film where the killer doesn’t kill anyone. So if he doesn’t kill anyone, we have to focus on the characters instead and have them create the tension and give them a greater motivation than just to survive. In just about every slasher film you have a group of teenagers running for their lives, and since we don’t have a killer who kills anyone, we would have to give them more motivation and more layers and where they all, throughout the film, are given a motivation to kill each other.

HORROR UNRATED: Seeing as Israel has no market for horror movies, Rabies is the very first of its kind in your country, what made you think you could pull off making a horror film?

Ha ha, yes, you’re right. I think it was 50% bravery and 50% naivety, or maybe we should say stupidity. The Israeli film industry isn’t known for making entertainment films. Most of the films here are about war, about the conflict, consequences of terror or heavy family dramas, so we have quite a depressing point of view when it comes to cinema. For instance there are no comedies being produced here. So when we said that we wanted to make a horror film, people said to us “Isn’t there enough violence and bloodshed as it is?” So we said “If that’s true, why make all these social realistic dramas about the war and the conflict? Why not make horror movies - escapist entertainment?”

HORROR UNRATED: So are you sort of rebelling against that with your film? Would you like to see the movie industry in Israel changed?

Yes, I guess one of our goals has been to change the perspective in Israeli cinema. We’re not saying there isn’t a room for heavy dramas or political films, but there should also be room for much more entertaining films like comedy and horror. In some way I think we succeeded with that because Rabies became quite successful in Israel, and the funny thing is, that we couldn’t get government funding because no one wanted to support a horror film, but when someone from the government film funding saw a rough cut of our film, they suddenly became very eager to throw a lot of money in the post-production, and subsequently, the government have created a new pool for genre films, so I think we can be quite satisfied.

HORROR UNRATED: Indeed you can – it’s quite an accomplishment. But I’m wondering if the film in any way is a commentary on the political situation in Israel?

Yes, but seeing as we first of all wanted to make an entertaining film, we didn’t want to push it, regarding the political subtext. But it starts with the title; Rabies. Of course there’s not an actual disease in the film, it’s a metaphorical title. I don’t know if you’re following what’s going on here but we have a sort of social rebellion these days about the state of Israel and we feel there’s a lot of violence in everyday life here in Israel and it’s like people are just ready to explode, you know – they can go off every minute.
 We live in a very short tempered environment and you can see it in the streets when driving around - maybe it’s the mediterranean climate that makes us so angry and hot tempered, I don’t know. Anyway, we didn’t want to blame the Palestinians or the security issues. We wanted to take a good look at ourselves and how we are treating each other and that’s why there’s no direct representation of the conflict in Rabies. There’s no representation of the Palestinian side or even the Arab side, there’s only the Israeli’s own struggle with themselves and each other, and how we treat each other in this country. It’s like I said before, there’s a button waiting to be pushed and when it is, all this anger and violence explode and there’s no turning back. So rabies is not an actual disease in the film, it’s meant in a metaphorical way, with anger, repression and violence sort of jumping from one person to another.

HORROR UNRATED: When I first heard about the film and saw the poster and the trailer, I thought it would be just another straight forward slasher movie. But I was very surprised because in fact it’s much more of a character piece – a character driven film with a lot more drama elements than your usual horror film and essentially the characters are far more important than the plot itself.
 There’s much more emphasis on the characters than in usual American type slasher films. Why did you chose this angle for the film and was it a deliberate choice from the beginning?

Thank you for noticing that. You know, most slasher movies have the characters killed and that’s it for them. But we wanted to deal with the consequences of each death instead, I mean, what happens after and how it affects others. All of the main characters are in a shade of grey, none are evil, none are good, they are all shaped by their environments, by their past or by the present.
 For example when the bad cop is stabbed in the chest, we didn’t just want him to die. So while he’s lying there on the ground in the forest, bleeding to death, we have the pay off with his farther calling him, and that scene sheds more light on what brought him, the bad cop, to be a bad as he is. So we wanted to bring back the human aspect to the horror genre and, like you said, put much more emphasis on the characters.

HORROR UNRATED: One of the things I liked very much was the fact that every character in the film is flawed – I mean they all have flaws and they all have problems, either with themselves or each other. Nobody seems to have a healthy relationship.

I totally agree. You know, we grew up on all those classic American horror films and even though they’re good and we liked them a lot, we always found them to be a bit artificial. It’s not that we did not enjoy them, I mean we also enjoyed watching Paris Hilton being stabbed by a spear in House of Wax, but it doesn’t really affect you, I mean, you laugh a bit but you don’t care and you saw it coming. So we didn’t want to do any of that, and it was something that Aharon was really strict about – that there should be a voice of reason among the main characters and that they should all have real life problems and arguments between each other.
 Take Pini for example. He’s the guy who doesn’t ant to go into the woods, who doesn’t want to help the stranger, who wants to call the police, who thinks the best thing to do is just run away, and he is the only one who survives the film. I mean, that’s kind of a twist also because usually in slasher films, he would be the first to be killed. So here, the coward is the smart one basically.
HORROR UNRATED: You managed to shoot the film in just 19 days. Was there any specific reason to this short production time? I can imagine it must have been quite stressful.

The reason is simple; 19 days was what our budget allowed. Most of the actors in Rabies are some of the biggest movie stars in Israel, so we could only afford to have them on set for a total of six days. But since we knew what our budget was before the script was completely finished, we kind of fit the script and some elements in the story, to match the short production time. Also we thought that if we have no lighting equipment we are more mobile, so the story takes place in one day and only in daylight, which means we only used available light and it saved us a lot of preparation time. So the budget limitations really made us more creative and at the same time it fit perfectly with what we wanted to achieve, because we wanted to make an Israeli horror movie, and what would be more Israeli than a horror film taking place in beautiful setting sunlight? And actually the film was shot in the winter, so that’s what winter looks like in Israel haha.
We shot for 19 days, only in available light with equipment we borrowed from the film department at the Tel Aviv University where Aharon was teaching and basically all the crewmembers were Aharon’s students. So the most experienced people on the set were the actors, haha. Actually the film was shot on the Sony PMW-EX3 camera…

HORROR UNRATED: Really? It doesn’t show. I mean, it looks really great and I actually thought it could have been Super 16mm…

That’s good to hear because we wanted that filmlook and we wanted it to look like it could have been Super 16mm, so that’s something we spent a great deal of time on in post-production. We’re very happy about the result because it looks just like we wanted it to look, and you know, if you have a good story to tell, it doesn’t really matter which camera you use.
 You can shoot it on Super 8mm, MiniDV or the new Arri Alexa – it’s not really that important. A lot of people wait around for the right camera or equipment to come along, but the camera is secondary. If you have a good story and a good script, you’ll manage.

HORROR UNRATED: Exactly – I feel the same way. It’s the story that counts first and foremost.  Rabies has been around the world on festivals, it’s out on DVD and the film has gotten some great reviews, people seem to like it a lot. How do you feel about all this and did you ever expect the film to get an audience outside Israel and to become so successful?

No we didn’t actually, because when we screened Rabies for our production company, some producers who work in the U.S. were invited and after they saw the film they said; “This was not going to work for foreign audiences. They will not get what you try to do here. You have changed the genre rules too much and the killer doesn’t kill anyone, it takes place in daylight and it’s too Israeli.”
So we thought that these guys knew what they were talking about, but then we had a screening of the film in Portugal and the reactions were amazing. People understood the jokes and were really into the film, and then the film entered Tribeca Film Festival where we got great reviews, so everything sort of began at Tribeca and the film was bought for release in the U.S. and Canada.
 So after Tribeca we sort of knew that we had succeeded, because no matter where we went after that, wether it was Canada, Korea, Germany or Spain, the audiences understood it, they laughed at the right moments and they jumped in their seats at the right moments, so that was really great and basically that’s the best gift a filmmaker can get.

HORROR UNRATED: Yes, I can imagine. Well, Navot I’m all out of questions so I’ll round things up by saying thank you so much for your time, it was great talking to you and we’re looking forward to seeing more from you guys in the future.

Thank you Claus, it’s been a great interview and it was good talking to you.

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