‘Picking sides’

An interview with director Yael Reuveny (Tales of the Defeated, Israel 2009)


In 1945, a family that spent quite a time in a Nazi concentration camp gets split in two. The director’s grandmother decides to drift away from the place of her catastrophe to the new Jewish state, while her brother Feiv’ke chooses to change his name, and stay in the place where he was once a prisoner.

Tales of the Defeated is a documentary film made by Yael Reuveny, a young Israeli movie director – shown today in an International Film Competition at Skena Up. The film transgresses a personal quest for the truth about her family history, and is concerned with a concept of choices that were there to make.

“If you pick sides from the beginning, you end up making a bad documentary,” Reuveny says. “Of course I was close to my grandmother, but when she died in 2001, there were only questions left behind. What I found out about my grandmother’s brother was way bigger then I thought it would be. Not only he lived through Holocaust, he also stayed in Germany to have a family there. Besides, I ended up crossing the border – while learning history, the bad guys are always these faceless creatures, I didn’t think about them in a way that, after the war, they might have lead normal lives.”

The director considers her heritage rather important, and claimes to have a strong jewish identity. “My grandmother came from a different world, I don’t think that she ever imagined that she would end up in a jewish country surrounded by her family.” Yael is only the second generation removed from the Holocaust, so she was asked about a possible anger she felt towards people she interviewed in Germany – who were a part of the stained history.

“This movie is dialectial in a way that everyone thinks I did pick a side, and although I myself am not sure what side might that be. As a character in the film, I hope it’s transparent that I didn’t feel any anger talking to those people, and even though it couldn’t get more personal. While talking to them, I had to choose to believe or not to believe the things they had to say. Considering I’m also a director, it got quite schizofrenic.”

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