Last Friday, Delta Kappa Alpha, NYU's gender-inclusive professional film fraternity, was fortunate to screen Wedding Doll, a critically acclaimed feature by accomplished Israeli filmmaker, Nitzan Gilady. Winner of two Israeli Academy Awards and an official selection of the Toronto International Film Festival, Wedding Doll is Gilady’s first foray into fiction filmmaking after having released three documentary films, “Jerusalem Is Proud To Present”, “In Satmar Custody” and “The Last Enemy”, which together received 13 international awards and participated in over 120 film festivals. The screening was followed by a Q&A with the writer/director, moderated by fellow Israeli filmmaker and NYU Tisch/DKA Alum, Yonatan Weinstein. In it, Gilady shared his views of the Israeli film industry, talked about coming up with the idea for his film and dispensed some wisdom about filmmaking in general.
The film's story follows Hagit, a young talented woman with a mild mental deficiency who lives with her divorced mother Sara in a small suburb-town in the desert. Hagit has a part-time job in a toilet paper factory and longs to be independent. Her mother, who gave up her dreams, works as a chambermaid in a hotel and her life revolves around taking care of her daughter. Hagit’s biggest dream is to get married. She secretly sees the son of the factory owner, and the two seem to be in love. In Hagit’s mind, she believes that one day they’ll get married. But soon, the announcement of the factory's impending closing comes and shakes Hagit and Sara's life, threatening Hagit's love and future.
Giladi started off dreaming of becoming an actor. He studied acting in America and graduated from the Academy of Arts "Circle in the Square" in New York. However, his acting career in America didn’t go that well, as the only parts he was offered (dbased on his Middle-Eastern ethnicity and look) were those of terrorists. Giladi was striving for something deeper.
When he went back to Israel after abandoning an acting career in the United States, Giladi started doing street theatre. One of the shows he devised, followed three women that wore a dress made with rolls of toilet paper. These 'brides' walked around an ancient city streets, looking for husbands. That’s when the initial image that would later become a concept and then a fully-formed idea, visited Giladi’s mind. He took a few pictures of the women, and the image stayed with him.
In fact, Giladi found the photos so intriguing that he kept them in his drawer for ten years, knowing that one day he will come back to revisit them in a film. He knew his character had to wear this dress at some point of the story, and simply started asking himself questions about who the character wearing this dress might be: where does she work, what are her dreams... In the climax of “Wedding Doll”, Hagit wears the same dress that the women were wearing.
Another source of inspiration was the relationship between Giladi’s brother and their father. His brother suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after having served in the Israel Defence Force in the war in Lebanon 12 years ago. His father was very protective of him — he cared for him so much, that he didn't know when to let go. He saw how much help the brother needed. One of the things Giladi’s brother would say is how he wanted to get married, and whenever he had gotten to a certain point in a relationship with women, and needed to tell them that he has PTSD, they would simply disappear. This naturally touched Giladi very much, and he explains a lot of the soul of the film comes from his brother’s predicament.
Making the film was an interesting experience, too. The majority of finances came from the government. Israel's system of financing film is very different when compared to the American system – the industry is very small and financing is not as dependent on box office, which in some ways provides beneficial results, as artists are freer to do develop films they want to make. Giladi being an accomplished documentary filmmaker, it wasn’t too difficult for the film to receive its initial production funds.
Giladi also talked about locations, and one piece of advice he shared was for filmmakers to put a lot of thought into it. “Wedding Doll” had a significant increase in production value shooting against the backdrop of the mind-numbing vistas of Israel's Ramon Crater. That’s one of the considerations that motivated the choice of the setting and location.
Finishing the conversation, Giladi said that everyone could make a film today. It may take a little longer for some people, but the resources are there, you only have to be persistent.