Interview with ÉCU alumni Yonathan Levy
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Yonathan Levy is a rising Israeli/French filmmaker who won ÉCU 2010′s Film of the Festival (Europe’s Best Independent Film 2010) with his touching film, Das Kind. ÉCU caught up with him at a recent screening of his film at La Mémorial de la Shoah here in Paris.
1. How did it feel to win ÉCU 2010’s Best Film award in Paris?
I felt very honored to get the award, and at the same time very surprised as it was the World Premiere of “Das Kind”. It couldn't have started better! I remember the Jury appreciated the European identity of the film, which made me very proud because that was one of our goals. Afterwards, I must say that getting an award from ÉCU helped us a lot with showing the film around the world. Without the festival and the award, I think it would have been much more difficult.
2. In the film “Das Kind”, the city of Paris itself plays an important role, especially in the opening section. How does it feel to have your film playing in a city which is also an integral part of the film?
Showing the film here is a great opportunity to bring the movie to the audience we made the film for, and it is also like adding another sequence to the movie - in the movie we are using Paris as a set for a confrontation between past and present, and this time it will be the set for a dialogue between the film, the main character and their audience.
3. What has been going on with “Das Kind” since it won at ÉCU 2010?
We have done 12 festivals and several screenings in France, Turkey, Hungary, Israel, USA, Brazil, Romania... We also sold the film to the French library so the film should soon be available in libraries around France. We also met some distributors that are now taking care of the film. But this is just the beginning. When you're an independent filmmaker, you have to accept that it's going to take you more time to show or sell your film than to make it.
4. One of the films strengths is the intimate feel between the camera and the Mico family, and you are reunited with them at this event at the Shoah. Do you stay in contact?
Yes of course! I think of them as my second family. Our meeting is a beautiful story - André even said it was a miracle, and I feel exactly the same. He gave me the opportunity to make my first feature-length film and I helped them bring their story to a large audience, and in the end this whole adventure has gone far beyond that.
5. Judaism is a main theme of the film, so did you expect opportunities like having your film screened in the Shoah or is it a surprise to you?
André and Irma didn't plan to give such an importance to the Judaism in the film, but very soon I realised that this was the link between all the events of Irma's life, and I decided to underline it more than they expected, and, fortunately, André let me do it the way I wanted. So, of course, I was expecting the Jewish community to be interested in the film, especially because it shows the Shoah topic in a new manner - but the ÉCU festival demonstrated that you don't have to be Jewish to appreciate it.
6. When creating the film were you aiming primarily for commercial or artistic success? Is it possible to separate the two?
Unfortunately, it’s possible…. I received an answer from a French distributor who told me after watching the film : "It's great, very good but I won't make money of it". Basically, she appreciated the film a lot but couldn't find a way to sell it. And I wondered to myself: "Isn't it contradictory? If she appreciated it, surely there will be people like her who will like it too!?" But unfortunatly, that's not how broadcasters think. When I created the film, I wasn't thinking art or business, I just wanted to find the best way to tell this story. Being independent gave me the freedom to achieve the film this way; otherwise it wouldn't have been the same film and certainly a less interesting one.
7. What’s next for you? You talked in 2010 about returning to a project you had started before “Das Kind”?
Yeah, thanks for reminding me that I have an uncompleted movie waiting for me on my shelf! You know, there is nothing worse for a filmmaker than a movie you never complete. Even years later, you find yourself thinking about it and you feel full of remorse. This project was a film about the Museum of Auschwitz I had shot in July 2007. I had already finished the editing when I started working on Das Kind. Unfortunatly, I couldn't work on both at the same time, so I decided to postpone my work on the Auchwitz's movie. But, after completing Das Kind, I realised I couldn't work on a Shoah topic any more, and I had to change to something else. It was too heavy. Also, the other thing was that the film was self-financed and very experimental, and so I didn't feel like spending several months on a work that would be very difficult to broadcast, and I wouldn't be paid for once again. For all these reasons, I took the decision to go forward and to work on a new project, a script for a feature film. It's a new adventure and requires me a lot of research because the action takes place during the Middle Ages… But I really hope that one day I’ll go back to this Auchwitz movie…
8. What would your advice be to people considering submitting?
Submit! Submit! Submit! The team at the festival is very serious and professional. They have very good and eclectic tastes, so if you are an independent filmmaker, you must show them your baby!