Israeli-born director Jonathan Gurfinkel’s first film is officially called “S#x Acts.” You can substitute an “I” for the asterisk, because the movie has six acts. Or you can put in an “E,” because there are numerous erotic scenes. But mostly it is an emotionally charged film about bullying that is both fascinating and depressing.
In “S#x Acts,” a young girl who has moved to a new school uses sex to win favor with the popular boys in her class, boys who, in turn, manipulate and abuse her.
Gurfinkel, 37, born and raised in Tel Aviv, spoke to the Forward about his film, out December 6 in New York and available on demand, about his famous father, and about the fact that there are no Hollywood endings in real life.
Curt Schleier: You were raised in the movie business, weren’t you?
Jonathan Gurfinkel: My father [David] is a very well known cinematographer, almost mythological in Israel. He shot a lot of films in the states for Canon [the defunct company owned by Israelis Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus], like “Rambo 3: Over the Top” with [Sylvester] Stallone and a lot of classic Israeli films. So I was kind of brought up on the set. The only film where I wasn’t on the set with him was one with John Cassavetes. He only finished about a quarter of it before Cassavetes fired him. Or he resigned. The facts aren’t certain. And I wasn’t there to see it.
So your career was bashert.
Glen Berger wasn’t surprised when the announcement came. He’d had an inkling that “Spiderman: Turn off the Dark” was on the last of its eight legs well before producers made it official.
“I was speaking to some of the actors back in August, and the general feeling was that unless a miracle happens we were going to close in January,” he told the Forward. “It wasn’t the attendance or the grosses, but the weekly running costs were that high.”
Berger was hired by Julie Taymor, who conceived and directed the play, to co-write the book with her. Along with the show’s composers, Bono and The Edge of U2, Berger ultimately split with Taymor, and re-imagined the play, which officially opened in mid-2011.
Berger wrote about that experience in “Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History.” He spoke to the Forward about the critical response to the play, his 13-year leave of absence from Judaism, and what he discovered when he returned.
Curt Schleier: What were you doing when you were selected to co-write Spiderman?
Glen Berger: I was the head writer of the PBS children’s show, “Fetch.” It was an animated program with a mandate to teach science to kids. It was seen every week by 2 or 3 million people. A lot of people say Glen Berger was plucked from obscurity. But my show was seen every week by more people than “The Lion King” in its first five years.
Five years after Daniel Menaker started working at The New Yorker in 1968 — first as a fact checker, then as a copy editor — he was told by the executive editor to look for another job. A lack of diligence, and because Menaker had criticized the content of a piece, something that was considered out of line for a copy editor, almost derailed his career at The New Yorker.
Menaker stayed another 26 years, and eventually became the magazine’s fiction editor, editing submissions by Alice Munro, David Foster Wallace and others before moving on to becoming editor-in-chief of Random House. He left the post in 2007 to undergo treatment for lung cancer. A New York City native born to a Jewish father and a Protestant mother, Menaker, now 72, wrote his memoir, “My Mistake,” which was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on November 19. He spoke to the Forward about the omnipresence of Woody Allen’s humor and what he thought the Bible might look like in 2,000 years.
Anna Goldenberg: At the end of your book, you describe how you sift through your personal archives, look at the old New Yorker issues and look at your books. As you do that, what sort of thoughts go through your head?
Daniel Menaker: The first thought that goes through my head is, “How could I have made such a mess of my papers?” I guess the second thing that occurs to me was how fortunate I have been in my life and my background, despite its problems and despite its tragedy. Even though there were dark periods, in a way even they turned out to make my life fuller, even if sadder. I don’t believe in being thankful to any deity, but I do believe in being grateful to randomness.
Merriam or Webster ought to place a photo of Theodore Bikel right by the dictionary definition of polymath. Bikel is the ultimate multi-hyphenate. In a career that spans 70 years — he joined Israel’s Habima Theatre as an apprentice actor in 1943 — he’s had enviable careers as a film actor, a stage actor, a folk singer and recording artist and, as co-founder of the Newport Folk Festival, an entrepreneur. He even played a space rabbi on TV’s “Babylon 5.”
Throughout that time, both independently and as a union leader — he was president of Actor’s Equity in the late 1970s and early 1980s — he supported liberal causes, Israel, and human rights initiatives.
Bikel was born in Vienna, and left for Palestine after the 1938 Anschluss. He subsequently studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and debuted on the West End as Mitch (opposite Vivien Leigh) in “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
On December 2, the National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene honors Bikel (a few months prematurely) on his 90th birthday. Bikel spent a few minutes on the phone with the Forward from his home in Los Angeles to discuss his life, the upcoming celebrations — plural, as it turns out — and Vienna before the war.
Curt Schleier: You’ve had so many careers. Have you decided yet what you want to do when you grow up?
Evan Rachel Wood stars with Shia LaBeouf in Fredrik Bond’s Tarrantino-esque thriller, “Charlie Countryman,” which opened November 15 in limited release. LaBeouf plays Charlie, whose dead mother appears and sends him to Bucharest. The griefstricken and unglued Charlie goes through a series of bizarre events leading him to Gabi (Wood), a mysterious Romanian he falls instantly in love with. The trouble is, as director Fredrik Bond put it, “Gabi is like playing with plutonium.” It is a dark and twisted, yet funny love story, in the brutal underworld of Bucharest.
As for her personal life, Wood, born to theatrical parents Ira David Wood and Sarah Lynn Moore, has been acting since she was 5 years old. On July 29, Wood and her husband, actor Jamie Bell, had their first child. The Arty Semite caught up with her on Wednesday in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan.
Dorri Olds: Congratulations on being a mom. What do you like most about motherhood?
Evan Rachel Wood: Everything. It was my dream to be a mom so I’m loving it.
Is it hard getting back into the swing of work after having the baby?
Yeah, these last couple of days I’ve been having separation anxiety. I’m so used to having the baby right here [motions to her chest]. It’s strange. They become a part of you. I was lucky because I’d just done three films before I got pregnant so I was like, “I’m taking a break.”
What’s it like working with Shia LaBeouf?
It was a thrill to learn recently that one of my favorite Mad magazine artists, the legendary Al Jaffee, would give his personal papers to Columbia University. Among those treasures are a massive cache of Jaffee’s much-loved Mad fold-in cartoons and notebooks of ideas Jaffee never even submitted for publication.
But the most intriguing part of the story, first reported by The New York Times, was the person who sealed the deal.
Karen Green is the Columbia librarian who popped the question to Jaffee at last year’s New York Comic-Con gathering: Would he consider donating his life’s work to the school? A lifelong comics fan, Green — Columbia’s longtime librarian for ancient and medieval history and religion — took on a not-so-secret identity as the school’s first graphic-novels librarian in 2005.
Under Green’s leadership, Columbia’s graphic-novel collection has grown to 4,000 works, including the priceless personal papers of X-Men writer Chris Claremont, early Batman artist Jerry Robinson, and “comics in English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Hebrew, Russian, Finnish, Dutch, and more,” Green told The Arty Semite.
Along with her day jobs, Green also serves on the board of directors of the Society of Illustrators, which now houses New York’s Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art. The Arty Semite caught up with her during a busy week that included two Comic-Con benefit events she was planning at Columbia.
Michael Kaminer: How did you hear about Al Jaffee’s archives in the first place?
If Dan Fogelman were any hotter, he’d have planets revolving around him. Fogelman is the screenwriter behind such hits as “Cars” and “Tangled” and “Crazy Stupid Love.” He’s also creator and producer of ABC’s “The Neighbors,” the subversively intelligent and subversively Jewish comedy.
He’s also in post-production of his first directing effort, “Imagine,” a film starring Al Pacino as Danny Collins, a successful but aging musician.
Fogelman does aging well. November 1 marks the release of his latest effort, “Last Vegas.” It’s about childhood friends — they call themselves the Flatbush Four — now all of Medicare age, who decide to throw a party in Vegas when the bachelor in their group announces he’s getting married — to a woman in her 30s.
It stars Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert DeNiro and Kevin Kline. And while on the surface it might appear that the film targets seniors, at a recent screening filled with mostly young people, it has the entire audience laughing throughout. It will almost certainly be the comedy hit of the year.
Fogelman recently spoke to The Arty Semite about how his parents influenced his films, being the Hebrew School class clown and how his bar mitzvah screenplay started his career.
Curt Schleier: How did “Last Vegas” come about?
“A Costa-Gavras Film” atop a marquee or movie poster is the equivalent of the old Good Housekeeping magazine seal of approval: a guarantee that the movie will be well acted, intelligent and politically charged.
In “Capital,” the Greek-French director probably best known for “Z,” “State of Siege” and “Missing” doesn’t disappoint. Here he targets the international banking system, which not only has the wherewithal but also the will to tear down the world economy in its pursuit of still another penny of profit.
Costa-Gavras’s choice for the lead, Gad Elmaleh, is as interesting as the film. Elmaleh, 42, plays Marc Tourneil, new head of the Phenix Bank, who will do anything and step over anyone in pursuit of riches. What makes his selection unusual is that Gad, a Moroccan-born Jew, is a comedian. In fact, he’s known as the Jerry Seinfeld of France.
Elmaleh has mastered Moroccan Arabic, Hebrew, French and a passable English. While he occasionally reached for a word, he spoke to The Arty Semite about how he got the part, being directed by the likes of Costa-Gavras and Steven Spielberg, and the tradition of tolerance in Morocco.
Curt Schleier: You’re a comedian. You don’t seem like a logical choice for this part.
Kathryn Grody is besieged.
The actress, on her way home after a recent preview performance of “The Model Apartment,” hadn’t made it out of the lobby when several audience members waylaid her. What happened next is both a tribute to Donald Margulies’ play and to Grody.
The play is intense and at times difficult to watch. Max (Mark Blum) and Lola (Grody) are survivors — she of the camps, he hiding in the woods. They’ve left Brooklyn for a new development in Florida, but arrived before their apartment was ready. So the developer puts them up in a model apartment where all the appliances are fake.
As they fled the Nazis they now flee from their daughter, who is obese and emotionally disturbed, but who somehow manages to get out of the institution where she lives and find them. She’s soon followed by her much younger and also troubled African-American boyfriend.
“The Model Apartment” is about many things, including the impact of the Shoah on the children of survivors. But much of what happens is open to the interpretation of audience members. Which is why the ladies hung around after the show to discuss what they’d seen and approach Grody on her way out.
Grody patiently answered all of their questions and more. As she told The Arty Semite several days later, “I ended up going out with one of the women. I continued to talk on the sidewalk with her. I was going to take a taxi home and was going to give her a lift if she lived on the West Side. But she lived on the East Side, so we started walking towards 84th Street. And when we got there I told her I was going to get a bite to eat. I didn’t get home until one in the morning. I’m sending her a Haggadah; Mandy [Patinkin, her husband] and I made our own Passover Haggadah and I’m putting that in the mail to her.”
During the rest of a telephone interview, Grody spoke about her take on the play, why no one thinks she’s Jewish and who cleans her kitchen.
Curt Schleier: This is a very uncomfortable play.
Bryan Adams Tweeted about them. Patti Smith shared a stage with them. And pop-star siblings Tegan and Sara number among their famous fans.
They’re Choir! Choir! Choir!, and after three years of wildly popular “interactive singing nights” in Toronto, founders Daveed Goldman and Nobu Adilman are bringing their ad-hoc musical community to New York for the first time.
Twice a week in Toronto, the pair brings together crowds to sing “original choir arrangements to classics pop hits.” On October 22, C! C! C! — as their friends call them — lands at The Living Room in Manhattan for a choral rendition of Elliot Smith’s indie moper “Needle in the Hay.” The following night, Goldman and Adilman will take over Brooklyn’s Union Hall to lead the crowd in singing Tegan and Sarah’s “Closer” and “I Was a Fool.”
C! C! C! has recorded more than 175 songs, from The Hollies and The Smiths to Solange and Daft Punk. There are no auditions for the choir; its singing nights are held in bars, where “the atmosphere is casual but the arrangements are tight,” boasts a press release.
The group’s looseness belies massive success in their hometown; Toronto Life magazine named them a “Reason to Love Toronto,” the Globe and Mail saluted them as “choir hopefuls and happy hipsters,” and NPR featured a video of C! C! C!’s performance of Big Star’s “Thirteen.”
Goldman, who manages a popular Toronto brunch spot called Aunties and Uncles, has music in his blood; his father, Hy, runs KlezKanada, North America’s largest Jewish music festival. Adilman, self-described as “half-Jewish on his father’s side,” is a creator of Canadian TV hit Food Jammers; he once pitched a show to Canadian TV about finding other “Jewpanese” (“too niche,” he was told). Adilman spoke to The Arty Semite from Toronto.
Michael Kaminer: How did C! C! C! first come together?
Growing up in a kosher household in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, Peter Rosenberg became enamored with hip-hop listening to tapes by rapper Big Daddy Kane and scratching records on the turntables he saved up to buy at age 14. Today, Rosenberg is a co-host of one of the nation’s most listened to morning shows, on the iconic New York City hip-hop station Hot 97. The Forward’s Seth Berkman recently talked with Rosenberg about the influence of his parents (his father, M.J. Rosenberg, is a well-known critic of Israeli policy), the relationship between Jews and blacks in hip-hop, and his die-hard fandom of professional wrestling.
Seth Berkman: Your older brother got you into hip-hop?
Peter Rosenberg: I was already like 8. The first tape that I remember having was when my dad went to a store on his way home from work one day and asked someone what he should get for his son who likes hip-hop and he got me one by Super Lover Cee and Casanova Rud, “Girls I Got ‘Em Locked.” The first summer I went to sleep-away camp at age 9, I had like eight cassettes with me. I had “Long Live the Kane” [by Big Daddy Kane] and then they all got stolen at camp, Jewish camp mind you. Evidently there was a huge contingent of hip-hop fans there.
Were your parents supportive of your interest?
The shocking true story of a 19th-century “blood libel” in which Hungarian Jews were accused of murdering a Christian girl for her blood is the subject of conductor Ivan Fischer’s first opera, which is to have its premiere this weekend in Budapest.
The gruesome story, set to music in Fischer’s one-act “The Red Heifer”, is based on an incident in the Hungarian village of Tiszaeszlar, where Jews were accused of killing 14-year-old Eszter Solymosi in 1883 to obtain blood to make unleavened bread for Passover — a Jewish libel disseminated in the notorious anti-Semitic tract “The Protocols of Zion.”
Some 15 Jews were tried and acquitted of the murder but the case stirred enormous waves of anti-Semitism at the time.
Fischer, who is Jewish, said the case continues to have repercussions to this day, when Solymosi’s grave has become a pilgrimage site for Hungarians on the far-right.
“Like in the 19th century, Hungary is again a battlefield between enlightened people who would like to join the Western world, especially Europe, and nationalist fundamentalists who feel threatened and create scapegoats,” Fischer told Reuters in response to emailed questions.
In program notes for the Sunday premiere in Budapest, Fischer said he had planned to write an opera based on the Tiszaeszlar affair in the 1980s, after being inspired by a film, but the filmmaker with whom he had hoped to collaborate died.
There is likely not an American of a certain age who does not remember where he was on November 22, 1963 — the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
That event is at the center of “Parkland,” the exciting new film from writer/director Peter Landesman. “Parkland” is the hospital where Kennedy was taken after being shot. The movie offers a different view of the incident, from the perspective of people surrounding the tragedy: the doctors and nurses at the hospital, an FBI agent who knew of Lee Harvey Oswald’s threats of violence, and even Abraham Zapruder, who famously filmed it.
For a first-time director with a limited (by Hollywood standards) $10 million budget, Landesman attracted an amazing cast, including Paul Giamatti, Jacki Weaver, Billy Bob Thornton and Marcia Gay Harden, among others. He spoke to The Arty Semite about how he got the job, what he discovered in his research and the different reactions he’s seen from older and younger audiences.
Curt Schleier: You’re only 48 years old — born two years before the tragedy. What did you know about it?
Peter Landesman: I was an investigative journalist for The New York Times, so you can say I was a student of history. I’m especially a student of history of the truth beneath the headlines, beneath the gloss. I’m always interested in the real personalities, the human element. Usually you end up reading about Kennedy, who is all warts. That’s uninteresting to me, as is the Camelot mythology. I don’t have time for that in the same way I don’t have time for the conspiracy theories.
“I was never one of those happy cripples,” is the way Jerome Felder described himself.
Why would he be? He was just 6 years old when he contracted polio. And in a sad irony fit for a blues song, the young Brooklynite caught the virus at a country summer camp he’d been sent to specifically to avoid the disease.
It’s no wonder that Felder was attracted to the Joe Turner songs of pain and suffering he heard on the radio. It’s no surprise, too, that the teenager started hanging out at blues clubs.
What is a little shocking is that when they asked this white Jewish kid on crutches what he was doing there, he had the chutzpah to say he was a blues singer. And he was. Except for the name, of course. So he changed it, to Doc Pomus.
As filmmaker Peter Miller points out in his documentary, “A.K.A. Doc Pomus,” Felder ultimately went on to write the songs that became the soundtrack for many of our lives: “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “This Magic Moment,” “A Teenager in Love,” “Can’t Get Used to Losing You.”
Pop song writing in the ‘50s was centered on the famous Brill Building in Manhattan, the ground zero of the music publishing business. In the world of Brill Building writers — Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Howie Greenfield and Neil Sedaka, Barry Mann and Cyntha Weil, among others — Pomus and his partners were the sun around which other planets revolved.
Miller spoke to The Arty Semite about how he came to make this film, his background in Jewish-themed documentaries, and how marriage changed his level of observance.
Curt Schleier: You’re only 51. Were you familiar with Pomus-era music?
When Stuart Zicherman was 11 years, it seemed like every family in his suburban Long Island, N.Y., neighborhood was getting divorced. His parents sat him down and told him that wouldn’t happen in their household. A year later, his father moved out.
This piece of personal trivia is relevant because Zicherman, now 44, is the co-screenwriter and director of “A.C.O.D.,” which stands for Adult Children of Divorce. The film, which is at once humorous and poignant in its portrayal of the lasting effects of parents’ split on their children, opens in select theaters October 4.
No one would describe Hugh (Richard Jenkins) and Melissa’s (Catherine O’Hara) divorce as amicable. They interrupt their loud argument during their son’s 9th birthday party to ask him — in front of family and friends — whom he wants to live with.
Zicherman has assembled an outstanding cast, including Amy Pohler, Jessica Alba and Jane Lynch. But the key player is Adam Scott (from “Parks and Recreation”), who plays Parker, the elder son forced into adulthood and a role as family mediator.
The crisis arises when Parker’s younger brother, Trey (Clark Duke) gets engaged and wants both parents (who have remarried and not spoken to each other since the divorce) to attend his wedding. It’s Parker’s job to mediate and make it happen.
Zicherman spoke to The Arty Semite about the impact of his parents’ divorce on him, their reaction to the film, and four-hour Seders.
Curt Schleier: The obvious question is, are you Carter?
Joshua Harmon applied for admission to the Juilliard School’s prestigious playwriting program three times. Three times he was told sorry, try again. On his fourth attempt, “Bad Jews” got him in.
No, that’s not a reference to crooked admissions officers. “Bad Jews” is Harmon’s play about relatives battling over a special chai pendant that belonged to their late grandfather.
The play opened for a brief run last fall in The Roundabout Theatre’s 62-seat Black Box venue to rapturous reviews. It’s success prompted a move to the larger Laura Pels Theatre, where it opens October 3.
The fight at the play’s center is between Daphna (Tracee Chimo), the most religiously observant of three grandchildren, and her cousin Liam (Michael Zegen), who doesn’t believe at all and wants the chai to give to his non-Jewish girlfriend.
The verbal sparring gets heated and even physical at one point, often prompting debate from departing audience members. Harmon spoke to The Arty Semite about his “very exciting ride,” the play’s title, and why he likes to stand in the back of the the theater almost every night.
Curt Schleier: You’re a playwriting student with an off-Broadway production under your belt. You’re probably more successful than your teachers.
At first, Jerry Wexler (1917–2008) was bupkes. But eventually he became the king of the music biz and even coined the phrase, “rhythm and blues.” In the 1960s, he wanted in on the “Muscle Shoals Sound,” which was named for a small town in Alabama where hit records were coming out of Rick Hall’s FAME Studios.
The documentary “Muscle Shoals,” in theaters September 27, tells the story of this tiny recording studio that launched so many hit records. The film features Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge, Gregg Allman, Jimmy Cliff, Clarence Carter, Etta James, Alicia Keys and Bono, but the most fascinating segments are of Jerry Wexler. These scenes are intercut with Rick Hall’s riveting tale about one night spent with Wexler himself. Hall sat down with The Arty Semite to tell the tale.
Dorri Olds: How did you first meet Jerry Wexler?
Rick Hall: Jerry Wexler was the biggest record company guru in the world. I started FAME here, in a little bitty town of a thousand people and the studio was a cinder block building sitting in the middle of a cotton patch. Jerry told me to call him if I ever had a hit to record. I called him and played him our recording of Percy Sledge singing “When a Man Loves a Woman.” And Jerry said okay. My stock went sky high with Wexler after this single went number one worldwide. Jerry called one day and said, “Can I bring Wilson Pickett down and make some records?” which we did.
How were things with Wilson Pickett?
To paraphrase a famous fundraising slogan, a mind is a terrible thing to watch wasting away.
But that’s what filmmaker Alan Berliner does in his moving and lovingly motivated documentary, “First Cousin Once Removed,” premiering on HBO September 23.
Berliner’s subject is his cousin, Edwin Honig (1919-2011), the noted poet, translator and teacher, who spent the last years of his life suffering from memory loss and Alzheimer’s.
Berliner filmed Honig five or six times a year over the last five years of his life and his decline is heartbreaking. Towards the end, he doesn’t recognize images of his younger self, his mother or his children.
But in the midst of his decay he occasionally becomes lucid, spouting poetic phrases both playful and profound. When Berliner asks if it is okay to film him Honig replies: “Mirror, mirror on the wall; you can be camera and I will be all.” At another point in the movie, he comments on the trees outside his apartment, “Leaves very still. But in the stillness there is movement. A moving painting.”
Berliner spoke to The Arty Semite about his relationship with his cousin, the difficulty of watching his deterioration and his propensity to make very personal documentaries.
Curt Schleier: How close to Edwin were you?
ABC’s newest comedy is called “The Goldbergs.” At least, now it is.
Created by Adam F. Goldberg and loosely based on his life growing up in a Jewish family in the 1980s, the show was originally called “How the F*** Am I Normal?” Its new name is likely more acceptable to newspaper TV listing editors, but the original was certainly more descriptive.
Yes, when it first begins there is too much yelling and, of course, the requisite smothering Jewish mother. Ultimately, though, comedy and love win out. While it is difficult to tell from the pilot, airing September 24, where establishing characters is more important than plot line, “The Goldbergs” shows long-term potential.
The show stars George Segal, the veteran actor (and raconteur), who has spent the last 50 years showing long term potential. He plays Pops Solomon, the kindly grandfather always available to show young Adam how to pick up older women, meaning 14-year-olds.
Segal is used to appearing in films with unusual family situations. He played Nick in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” (Oscar nominee), a philandering husband in “A Touch of Class” (Golden Globe winner) and as suburbanite/bank robber in “Fun With Dick and Jane.”
For many he is best known as magazine publisher Jack Gallo in the long-running sitcom, “Just Shoot Me.” But for others he remains the always-smiling, banjo-playing frequent guest of Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show.
Segal spoke to The Arty Semite about his own family growing up, anti-Semitism on Long Island, and a Jewish show with a lead actor named Troy — wait for it — Gentile.
Curt Schleier: Are the Goldbergs anything like your family growing up?
Casually clad in a black tee shirt and jeans over his stocky 59-year-old frame, Israeli filmmaker Eran Riklis radiates a warm friendliness. He responds to questions with rapid-fire musings that rise above the din of the lunchtime crowd at a popular Manhattan restaurant, in nearly unaccented American English.
What brought him together with The Arty Semite is his latest film, “Zaytoun,” opening in New York on September 20, to be followed by a national release. With “Zaytoun,” Riklis returns to the Arab-Israeli issues that mark his best-known works, including “The Syrian Bride” and “Lemon Tree.” “Zaytoun” is the tale of an Israeli fighter pilot, shot down and captured by Palestinians in Beirut on the eve of the 1982 Lebanon war, and who forms an unlikely alliance with a remarkable adolescent boy from the Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila.
Riklis began our conversation by explaining how the story developed from the draft of a screenplay by a Palestinian-American electrical engineer, Nader Rizq, who had labored for years on this first script. It reached him through Fred Ritzenberg (who became one of his producers), but Riklis had initially rejected it out of fatigue with Israeli-Arab themes.
Ralph Seliger: So it was a screenplay to begin with.
Eran Riklis: Yes, and not at my own initiative, which is quite rare. But at some point we decided we could work together on the next draft. Writing a screenplay is like adopting a child; at some point it becomes your own, through a process of discovery. The script was fully written by Nader Rizq. I, as always, was involved in shaping the drafts that evolved once I joined the project.
Is any part of it factual?