26 April 2012

Barak Heymann Is My Brightest Diamond

This guy can produce (and direct!) the hell out of a movie.

Sun, Apr 22
Me: Shalom, Barak! This is Courtney. Can I call you in the next hour? 6:02PM
Barak Heymann: Sure! I am free now 10:02PM
Me: Yay! I'll call you in 10 minutes, ok? :-> 10:06PM
Me: Hey, let's talk tomorrow, ok? I'm 2hrs ahead of PDX, so my ass needs to get to bed. :-> Tomorrow afternoon or evening? Nice to meet you! Courtney 11:23PM

Israeli film producer-director Barak Heymann--son of Noa, brother of Tomer, the youngest Heymann--has been in the United States since last week, so I have been trying to reach him on his cell phone for an interview for my Israeli film story. I spoke with his brother Tomer Heymann last month. I did talk to Barak for a hot minute shortly after 10PM this past Sunday, but the connection was bad. So, he said he'd call me back.

Then, for an hour, I was the paragon of the good reporter: I actually started transcribing the interview I'd done earlier that day with Israeli film scholar Miri Talmon. By far, it was the easiest transcription I've ever done in my life. (Note: Reporters never think that.) It just flowed. I think Dr. Talmon may be my intellectual soulmate.

My story starts from the unsurprising premise that Israeli film can tell us a lot about Israeli society. There are many reasons to learn more about Israeli society: it has a fascinating sociocultural and linguistic history; gaining understanding about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the country is an important ally to the U.S.; and for those on the Jewish Studies tip, it's a homeland. Though, Israelis will tell you their country is a problematic place.

Israeli film has been getting hot for, like, the past ten years. (Throw your hands up if you saw Late Marriage!) Israel's entries have been short-listed for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film every year except 2011 for the past six consecutive years. Though an Israeli has yet to take home a statuette, this is obviously a win-win situation.

Weds, Apr 25
Me: How are you? Can I call you in an hour? How late will you be up this evening? 5:57PM
Barak Heymann: Best to call me now I guess 7:15PM

So, why is Israeli cinema bubbling up just now? In the volume she co-edited Israeli Cinema: Identities in Motion, Miri Talmon wrote: "The demand for authenticity of experience represented in recent Israeli films, and for a critique of Israeli history which is rooted in biographically invested fictional worlds, is one of the reasons for the unprecedented success of Israeli films both in Israel and in worldwide film festivals."

Israeli society has been changing since the 1990s, Dr. Talmon says in real time. She identified the peace process and the emergence of Israeli suburbia and television with a "privatization" in the culture. Throughout its history, in other words, Israel was necessarily very focused on the national and, as Dr. Talmon puts it "collective" project of being--to the neglect, it might be said, of the personal. People are increasingly unwilling to do that now.

Isaac Zablocki, the director of the Israel Film Center in Manhattan says: "Israel has become more universal. Israel's story has matured a little bit." Also that: "Israel has grown confident with its own culture" in the past ten years, "develop[ing] its own themes." And a cinema "speaking in [its] own language," as Zabocki calls it, is much more compelling to audiences the world over.

Tomer Heymann's movies like I Shot My Love and The Queen Has No Crown are incredibly personal, yet, to me, they relay critical codes about a culture that can seem very difficult to breach for outsiders. Which is why I'm trying to get hold of his film-producing and -directing little brother.

Thurs, Apr 26
Barak Heymann: Do you want to talk in 20 min. Maybe? I will be free and relaxed.. 2:34PM 
Me: Um. Ok. I can do that. 2:55PM 

(Note: It is true that I often include material for my own geeky amusement [e.g. this post's title]--one of whose side effects is that my co-nerds will spot what I've done and, perhaps, enjoy a little bit of tee-hee-hee. Allow me to explain that, in fulfillment of an assignment for Deborah Blum's J880 class, this post is a "diamond narrative" and I wish to court goodwill by making said post as easily identifiable as possible; Heymann rhymes with diamond; and My Brightest Diamond is a band on the Asthmatic Kitty label.)

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