One of the most acclaimed horror films of 2013, comes from a pair of filmmakers who hit the international circuit a few years back with the release of their films Rabies. Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado return with the often funny, stomach turning, Big Bad Wolves. Already gaining notoriety as closing film at Film4 FrightFest this year, the film is also playing the UK Jewish Film Festival, where we had the chance to catch up with Aharon.
1. How did you get into filmmaking in the first place and when did you meet your working partner, Navot Papushado?
Actually I didn’t dream of becoming a film director. I was a film critic and a lecturer at the Tel Aviv University. Navot Papushado was a student of mine. He was different. He wanted to make genre films. In Israel we make these kind of films and the university doesn’t encourage this kind of filmmaking. I was there for him, first as a teacher and then as a producer. After I produced his graduation film he asked me a life changing question: “Why only write and talk about filmmaking? why don’t you try making one with me?”. Well, why the hell not?
2. Who are your main inspirations?
The operatic brutality of Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah. The dark wit of the Coen Brothers. The incredible genre juggling act of Quentin Tarantino.
3. Where did your interest in horror cinema come from?
My father took me to the cinema at a very young age. I was 3 or 4. I think I saw “The Good, the bad and the ugly” at the age of five. I fell in love with the movies. Whenever I was sick, I stayed at home with loads of videos. Nothing changed since then. I still have to watch at least one film a day so I won’t fall into a deep depression.
“Rabies” was done on a shoestring budget and it was the best lesson I could get as a first time writer-director. I mean if you can direct a 90 minutes feature film in less the 19 days and survive, you can do anything. I’m kidding. But, really, shooting a low budget genre film makes you a better director. You have to stretch your abilities, to work a lot with your imagination and there’s nothing better for a young and aspiring film director from a set of strict budget limitations. It makes you ready for your next projects.
5. What impact did Rabies make on the Israeli film industry?
It make quite an earthquake and people in the industry and the academy started to understand that it’s possible to make local genre films and that the world isn’t just expecting to import only political films and family dramas from Israel. The world is psyched on getting some fresh Israeli blood into the genre system.
6. Where did the story for Big Bad Wolves come from?
started with a wish to make a film that deals with a suspected pedophile and his shattered life. His wife doesn’t want to talk to him. He can’t see his daughter. His students hate him and he loses his job. Then we wanted to make a film about a vigilante cop who takes matters to his own hands. Then we wanted to make a film about a vindictive father. Then we decided to make all three films in the same movie. When we pitched the idea to our producer we told him the following: What if dirty Harry wandered by mistake to a Korean revenge film written by the Brothers Grimm.
Truly the best experience of our lives. The producers and the Israeli fund loved this twisted tale of vengeance from the get-go so we got the ideal conditions to make a really bold film inside our industry. We got a chance to work with the best DOP, production designer and actors living in Israel. What more can you ask? As for the writing- this film just wrote itself and got darker and darker by the minute. We felt we have a rare animal and that we should treat it very carefully. Luckily the world understood our tonal changes.
8. What was the casting process like?
We always write for a specific actors. We were blessed to get all our first choices. Apparently everybody wants to be a tough guy in an Israeli revenge thriller. The only character that wasn’t written for a specific actor was Dror- the suspected pedophile. We wanted a fresh face and we found it in Rotem Keinen. This was only his second role. I think he’s one of Israel most promising actors.
9. It is also one of the funniest horror films I have ever seen – what was your decision to include such great humour and did old forms of Jewish humour inspire you?
I think it’s in our DNA. Our people developed a very sick and twisted sense of humour – I think it has something to do with our dark history and the fact we are a survivalist nation. I think sense of humour helps you deal with dark matters. We allowed ourselves to add layers of black comedy to this strange tale of justice because we wanted to show the absurdity in vengeful acts. We decided to go to the extreme.
10. There is a great satire element to Big Bad Wolves with the tension between the Arab character and the Jews – were you trying to make some sort of point about everyone being the same?
we feel that there are only two representation of Palestinians in the Israeli- a terrorist or a victim of the occupation. Most of our films deal with this important issue. We wanted to make a film in-which the Palestinian isn’t a part of the bloodshed. we wanted to have a dreamlike scene of a dreamlike peace in a nightmare of a film. In a good way of course.
11. You also have a great way of telling the story, where the audience isn’t quite sure who to believe throughout the film and everyone ends up look bad by the end, what was your motivation behind this?
I think the title says it all: Big Bad Wolves. We wanted to make a revenge film in which everybody is both wolf and victim, hunter and the hunted. We do believe in the old saying- on your way to vengeance dig two graves. Revenge always create a deadly cycle and that’s we decided to have such a brutal ending.
12. The film, I think, makes you think a lot but do you think the ending is pretty straight forward?
Is it? I think there’s a hidden layer to this straight forward ending. I think it’s a bastard of an ending. I think the ending ask a question no revenge film has ever asked before. I don’t want to ruin the ending but after viewing people should ask themselves again who’s the true avenger of the film and if a justified revenge is truly justified when you learn the truth about the tragedy in hand.
13. Can you see yourself working with Navot again after these previous two films?
I’ll never make a film without Navot. Didn’t make one before I met him, won’t make one without him now.
14. What is next for you?
We shot and now we edit our segment for “The ABC’S OF DEATH” and we really keen on making “Once Upon a Time in Palestine” – a spaghetti western set at the 40’s, when Britain occupied Israel.