The Arty Semite

The Most Boring Job in the Army

By Anna Goldenberg

  • Print
  • Share Share

Movies about the army are usually about fighting, sacrifice, a tense atmosphere and people in uniform plotting war strategies. “Zero Motivation,” the first feature film by Israeli director Talya Lavie, shows a different aspect of military life: Set in an army base in the Israeli desert in 2004, it tells the story of a group of girls who spend their compulsory military service doing office work. Far removed from the frontlines and decision-making, Zohar (Dana Ivgy), her best friend Daffi (Nelly Tagar) and the other girls have time to worry about issues such as breaking the Minesweeper record on all of the office’s computers, dating male fellow soldiers and engaging in petty power struggles with their officer Rama (Shani Klein).

One day, a new arrival puts the friendship between potty-mouthed Zohar and fragile Daffi on trial, and events take a turn toward the turbulent.

The coming-of-age-tragicomedy had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 17, and will be released in Israeli cinemas in June. Director Lavie, who was born in 1978 in Petah Tikvah, Israel, first studied animation at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design before attending the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School, both in Jerusalem. She won several international awards for her thesis short film, “The Substitute,” which is also about young female soldiers in office jobs.

Like the characters in her film, Lavie was stationed in the desert during her army service. It was the contrast between the beauty of the desert and the aesthetics of the army that served as an inspiration for the movie, she told the Forward. She also talked about how her film reflects changes in gender-segregation in the army, and how hard it was to balance comical and tragic aspects of the movie.

Anna Goldenberg: How much of this movie is based on your own experience?

Talya Lavie: My own experiences are just inspiration. It’s not based on real events or real people but it’s inspired by real feelings and a real environment. While working on the film, my own experiences became more and more distant, and I researched a lot. I talked to a lot of girls.

Did these girls have any experiences in common?

There are some common experiences, but each one is different. Each one was stationed elsewhere, in a different part of the army, in a different unit. Most of your experiences are regarding the people you are stationed with. It’s a story about people, first of all, and about this group: Each of the girls is coming from elsewhere, from different parts of society, and they are all sitting together in one office.

Where were you stationed?

I was also in a base in the desert. Actually, one of my big inspirations was the desert. I like it a lot … The fact that it’s isolated and has constantly changing weather changes something in the proportion. And also, I think the scenery of the desert is beautiful and sometimes even divine. I want to put it in contrast with the aesthetics of the army. It’s something you can always see in American army films, and it creates something that I really liked a lot cinematically.

In the film, only women were doing office jobs. Does this reflect gender-segregation in army posts?

In the past 10 years, they have been trying to change that, and you can see some of those changes happening in the film. [For example] you can see that the girls are trying to do guarding [of the facilities]. This is something that starts to happen there. There are men in secretarial jobs, but in the film, I wanted to show just the women. It does not show the entire reality, because there are men in secretarial jobs, and also, there are women in combat. But it was my choice to have only women in the film.

Because of the group dynamics?

Yes, that kind of dynamic is something that I really experienced. It is so “not important,” as you can see in the film — always something bigger happened. They are the people in the background. I wanted to put them in the front.

When I saw those girls in the office jobs, I couldn’t help but think that this is just a waste of their time.

You might say, yes, some of the girls are wasting their time, but it’s not a message of the film because I don’t think you can really waste your time. If you are a person who wastes his time, you will waste it anywhere, also in college. And if you are a person who does something with yourself, you will always learn something.

Did working on this change how you thought about your own experience?

I wrote the script from the place I’m in now. I used my emotions at that moment. It’s not like I go back in time. You know, the army is just a platform to tell the relationship story, the emotional story. Also, after the army, you find yourself in other frames, which can put you in some situations [like in the army] which put your friendship at trial.

You studied animation before you went to film school…

It was interesting because until then I was always working alone, making my own characters and doing all the roles. And then you discover the world of working with people. You need to learn a lot…

What was the most challenging lesson you had to learn?

To be understood. You know this song, “oh God, please don’t let me be misunderstood”? That’s the big difference between doing animation the way I did it, and doing film. And the biggest challenge [in “Zero Motivation”] was maintaining the tone of the film. It’s juggling a little bit between comedy — some real nonsense comedy because [the girls] are goofing around — to some really hard, dramatic parts, and painful stuff. I felt like an acrobat in a circus walking on thin rope, trying not to fall to any side … I had to deal with it through the entire filmmaking, from the script, the casting, the art design, the filming, the editing, the music, and until the design of the fonts [on the poster].


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Zero Motivation, Tribeca Film Festival, Talya Lavie, Interviews, Film

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.