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10/29 (Fri) Competition Section "Intimate Grammar" Press Conference and Q&A: Notes & Quotes

10/29 (Fri) Competition Section "Intimate Grammar" Press Conference and Q&A: Notes & Quotes

A press conference featuring Intimate Grammar from the Competition section was held as follows:
Date & Time: October 29th (Friday), from 15:15 @Movie Café / Q&A from 19:30 TOHO Cinemas Screen 7
Appearance: Nir Bergman (director/screenplay), Orly Zilbershatz (actress)

©2010 TIFF

Here are some notes and quotes:

Nir Bergman (NB): This is our second visit to Tokyo and to be at the Tokyo International Film Festival since 2002. It's good to be here once again and an honor to be in the Competition Section.

Orly Zilbershatz (OZ): Thank you for inviting us. Tokyo is an amazing city and we're enjoying it very much.

Q: This film is based on the famous novel in Israel titled, Book of Intimate Grammar. When did you first read this book and when did you come up with the idea to make a film based on it?

NB: I first red the book when I was 21 or 22 years old. It influenced me very strongly and deeply. It actually gave me an emotional shock as if reading about my own life, although I was born 15 years after Mr. David Grossman was born. The story stayed with me and became a part of me just like good books sometimes do to us. After I became a filmmaker, I did my first feature film, Broken Wings which was screened at the International Film Festival in Jerusalem. That's where I met Mr. Grossman and told him that I was very interested in making a film about "Book of Intimate Grammar". He was skeptical at first because his book is full of the intimate feelings of a child, which is hard to adapt into a film. It took me 3 years to make this film, mostly working on the script. They say that when you want to make a film out of a book, you have to choose a bad book because it's easier to make it into a better film. But as for this novel, I just loved the characters so much and I thought they deserved the big screen. I thought to myself that even if I only am able to achieve 70% of what Mr. Grossman had made, it would still be worthy of an audience. Grossman wrote part of the script as well and gave me advice. On one side he told me to do what I wanted to but on the other side, he would make small remarks about the dialogue because this is a period piece and he remembers how people used to speak in the 60's. When he first saw the rough cut of the film, he later told me that after he finished watching, he couldn't talk with anyone for 30 minutes. He was very happy with the film and that was my happiness too.

Q: How did you find the main character boy, Roee Elsberg?

NB: We didn't think we would find a boy fits for this role at agencies where children have acting experience, so we went o schools all around Israel putting up announcements about how we were looking for a boy to be in Intimate Grammar. Thousands of children came to audition for the role. When I met Roee Elsberg, I asked him about the first time he rode a bicycle, since I was teaching my own son how to ride one then. He told us about the time his father took him to ride and he fell off. Roee pretended that he wasn't hurt to not worry his father by saying, "I'm OK father, don't worry!" He was so vivid and so emotionally out there when he was describing this scene to us, but deep inside his eyes there was pain. That's the kind of kid I was looking for—someone who had emotions behind his eyes, like an artist. After we casted him, we realized how much he looked like Mr. David Grossman when he was a kid.

Q: Orly, what is your impression of Roee as your son's role?

OZ: Roee is a prince! He acts so naturally, as if he was born like that. Actors with experience try so hard to be in the situation of the story and try to feel the character, but for him, it is natural.

Q: What did you pay attention to the most playing the role of the mother of this boy?

OZ: Because of my character's personality which was so mean, cruel, and obsessive, intuitively, I wanted a moment in the film to feel more mercy and pity for the child. But I couldn't do this because of her character and how David Grossman created her. I had to remember that this mother's mercy was a little strange, probably because she had a hard life having gone through the Holocaust and she didn't have pity for her son's sensitive soul. She was a very extreme woman. Having to be aware of this was the hardest part because I am also a mother of 3 children.

Following the Press Conference, a Q&A Session was held. The director explained in detail about the Jewish rituals depicted in the film. The Bar Mitzvah is one of the oldest rituals in Israel where a boy celebrates becoming a young man. In Israel, the age 13 is when you become responsible for your own actions and thoughts. Before 13, your parents are responsible for your sins. The Bar Mitzvah is celebrated by religious and nonreligious people. The one in the film is not religious. Coincidentally, Orly's daughter became a Bar Mitzvah. To celebrate, she brought her daughter to the Tokyo International Film Festival. Her daughter also came up on stage during the Q&A Session and was greeting with a warm round of applause.

Intimate Grammar
©Libretto Films - Norma Productions
Film Information

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