Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. I had the pleasure of catching up with Ahron Keshales, one half of the writer/director team who brought you the spellbinding RABIES last year and have a new masterpiece of a film touring the festival circuit called BIG BAD WOLVES. The film deals with some pretty tough topics such as child abduction/molestation and how many people can be hurt through one act of violence. After seeing the film, I contacted the directors to see if they wanted to talk with me. The other half of the directing team Navot Papushado even chimes in for one of the answers. The film played at Fantastic Fest and the Chicago International Film Festival recently, was the Official Selection of the Tribeca Film Festival 2013, amazed crowds at Fantasia Fest 2013, and is worth all of the praise being heaped upon it. Here’s the interview…
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): So you're just getting back home after Fantasia Fest 2013. What was it like having BIG BAD WOLVES seen by an audience here in the States?
AHARON KESHALES (AK): We just returned from Fantasia Fest 2013 and it was one of the best screening we had in our lives. But that's the thing with genre film festivals, they bring out the best spectators. The crowd comes to love your film, they really do and their responses are instinctive. If it's good they'll bring the house down, if it's bad, well they still love you but in a different way. After three festivals in the US & Canada (Tribeca and Stanley are the others) we can say that BIG BAD WOLVES has developed a special connection with the American audience.
BUG: Explain to me how you came up with the story of BIG BAD WOLVES and if it at all relates to the way you came up with the story for your first film RABIES?
AK: RABIES started as an answer to the following question: "There aren't any serial killers in Israel, so who'd buy the idea of an Israeli slasher film?” We decided to make a slasher film without a slasher.
BIG BAD WOLVES started with a wish to make a film that deals with a suspected pedophile and his shattered life. His wife doesn't want to talk to him. He can't see his daughter. His students hate him and he looses his job. Then we wanted to make a film about a vigilante cop who takes matters to his own hands. Then we wanted to make a film about a vindictive father. Then we decided to make all three films in the same movie. When we pitched the idea to our producer we told him the following: What if dirty Harry wandered by mistake to a Korean revenge film written by the Brothers Grimm.
BUG: That's so awesome. So how did the producer react to that question?
AK: Well, the producer sends us home to write it as fast as we can so I guess he loved it.
BUG: You seem to like the interweaving of multiple plots. It's a theme prevalent in both RABIES and BIG BAD WOLVES. As a writer, what's the most important thing to you in regards to making all of the stories fit together to tell one big story?
AK: I guess there's no golden rule but if a had one it'll be the following: As much as you have to love each of your characters you must remember that they're a part of a very big picture and they're in service of a greater story than their own. That is why you mustn't be afraid to let them go when they're not vital for the plot and bring them back only if they serve the future event of your tale. For the ultimate writing of a multiple plot film turn to Sergio Leone's THE GOOD, THE BAD, & THE UGLY.
BUG: BIG BAD WOLVES deals with come pretty controversial subject matter when it comes to American standards. I can only assume the same standards are present in your own country. What was the response been when people found out that you were making a film about a child molester/murderer and taking the law into one's own hands in response to it?
AK: We knew we're dealing with a very delicate subject matter from the get go and when we wrote the script we were very cautious about every decision. When you're doing a serious drama about this controversial issue that's one thing but when you're making a dark comedy about pedophiles and torturing you have to be very responsible. The only way to make sure you're not making poor moral decisions is by showing your script to the most delicate of souls- your mother for example. If she could make it to the last page without throwing the script away from her then you're on the right track. If she smiles and even laughs while reading this dark and brutal screenplay then you have a home run!
BUG: Hah! So I guess your mom gave this one a good review. Speaking of delicate issues, both RABIES and BIG BAD WOLVES have very subtle moments dealing with Israeli/Palestinian relations. But these instances feel very like a very conscious and careful addition to the story. What made you include these little bits and can you talk about how you handled them in terms of your story?
AK: How to answer this without ruining these surprising scenes? Let's just say that we feel that there are only two representation of Palestinians in the Israeli- a terrorist or a victim of the occupation. Most of our films deal with this important issue. We wanted to make a film in-which the Palestinian isn't a part of the bloodshed. we wanted to have a dreamlike scene of a dreamlike peace in a nightmare of a film. In a good way of course.
BUG: I love that concept. Really poetic, in a way. The father and son/daughter theme is prevalent in BIG BAD WOLVES through many different players. In terms of both narrative and metaphor, can you elaborate a little on your feelings about this theme?
AK: Israeli culture was always familial. We're a small country with survivalist instincts so it makes us all very close to each other. In times of hardship Israel becomes like this huge but tight family unit. BIG BAD WOLVES shows that aspect in our lives. We're cynical, but in times of need you won't find a better ally then your neighbor.
Another reason has something to do with way our parents and their parents brought us up: they live and lived their lives in the name of their children. Everything they do is for their children. They would work for us, fight for us and sometimes even give their lives for our better future. I think this theme is very dominant in the relationships between Gidi (Tzahi Grad) and his father (Dov Glikman).
BUG: That is interesting. Growing up, were you always interested in being filmmakers? And how was that received by your parents/mentors/peers?
AK: Actually I always wanted to be a film critic and a film studies lecturer. True story - it's written in my 8th grade year book. My father wanted me to become a lawyer. He was devastated by my decision. But when he saw I got to be a film critic and a lecturer at a very young age, he was happy. Today he's my biggest fan. My mother always believed in my artistic soul. She still saves all my childhood paintings.
NAVOT PAPUSHADO (NP): I wanted to teach history. I even started off as a student for both film and history. Gradually I became more and more interested in making films so I decided to drop out of the history department. My parents felt the same as Aharon's family. And it's only logical, there's not a lot of money in the Israeli film business. Nowadays they are true fans and they even came along with me to our world premiere at Tribeca.
BUG: You guys are such a great team when it comes to filmmaking. Who does what portion or do you rotate as far as writing/directing/editing? How do you break up the responsibilities?
AK: The first rule of working together is never talk about working together. We do everything as one unit. In Israel they call us The Papushales Brothers.
BUG: Very cool. So after having a great reception at Fantasia Fest, where are you off to with BIG BAD WOLVES and when do you think audiences can see the film in a theatrical release, Video On Demand, digital download and DVD/BluRay?
AK: Actually, our film is finally hitting Israeli cinemas this week. Cross you fingers for us. Internationally we're headed to London's Frightfest. Believe it or not, BIG BAD WOLVES- an Israeli revenge thriller- has been chosen to close the festival and this is happening on August 26th. As for the US release- Magnet releasing has acquired the rights for BIG BAD WOLVES and will probably release it in limited release later on this year. Those of you that can't wait that long can drive to Austin join us at the incredible Fantastic Fest.
BUG: Sounds good. Well, I know you guys are wrapped up with BIG BAD WOLVES at the moment, but what's next for you?
AK: Up next for us is writing and directing our short film for THE ABC'S OF DEATH. After that we're going to focus on our two Israeli projects, one of them is "Once upon a time in Palestine" set during the British occupation of Palestine. At the same time were going to write our first English language script.
BUG: Well, I can't wait to check them out. Is there any last words you like to say to the AICN readers about BIG BAD WOLVES?
AK: The less you know about "Big Bad Wolves" the better. I think this film has AICN readers written all over it. I mean, this film makes you laugh at something you really shouldn't be laughing and then it punishes you for laughing so hard. It's a revenge thriller with a guilty conscience.
BUG: Thank you so much for this interview.
AK: No no no, thank you!
BUG: Check out my review of BIG BAD WOLVES below after the trailer and look for it in early 2014!
Advance Review: Recently played at Fantasia & Chicago International Film Festival 2013!
BIG BAD WOLVES (2013)Directed by Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado
Written by Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado
Starring Guy Adler, Lior Ashkenazi, Dvir Benedek, Gur Bentwich, Doval'e Glickman, Tzahi Grad, Rotem Keinan, Nati Kluger, Kais Nashif, Menashe Noy, Ami Weinberg
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Most likely one of the best, if not THE best horror film of the year is BIG BAD WOLVES. Though it is not horror in the sense of having monsters with giant teeth and fangs or insubstantial ghosts or walking corpses or handheld cameras, it does convey the horror of humanity in a manner that will hit you hard with a gripping story, powerful acting, and scenes that will most assuredly leave a deep gash in your heart.
Much like their previous accomplishment RABIES, writer/directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado map out an intricately charted tale that involves a lot of moving parts, character intersections, and plotlines that twist and turn in all directions. Though the cast is somewhat smaller than RABIES, the motivations of all of the players involved flow in and out of the story and all seem to come together in the ultra-powerful ending. Keshales and Papushado do a fantastic job of not only juggling these storylines so that they make sense from start to finish with the viewer, they also thread them together in ways you could never guess. Though comparisons are going to be made to Tarantino, I often find his plot construction to be much more obvious and failing in terms of subtlety. More like Hitchcock, Keshales and Papushado deal with multiple storylines, but do so with a gentler, more deceptive handling of suspense and pacing. Scenes which we know will end badly are prolonged to the nth degree just to make the viewer and the unfortunate person strapped to a chair squirm all the more.
BIG BAD WOLVES deals with the theme of child abduction and victimization and how the accusations of these crimes can ruin a person. It also deals with the weight of the crime itself. And also deals about the reactions we all have when the young are endangered. Looking at this concept from such a broad scope might be difficult to pull off, but the filmmakers do this expertly by casting memorable characters which represent each standpoint. But though each of the characters involved represent one view, the actors Lior Ashkenazi, Tzahi Grad, Rotem Keinan, and Doval'e Glickman portray them as real characters and not just visual representations of an idea.
Though there’s much more to the story, here’s the basics. A series of child abductions and murders have plagued the city for a while not. Lior Ashkenazi plays Miki a burnt out cop who recognizes the faults of the system and relies on his gut which tells him that Dror (Rotem Keinan) a school teacher is responsible for the abductions. Tzahi Grad plays Gidi, the father of a girl who has gone missing and has the same feelings about Dror. Though he isn’t convicted of the crime, Dror finds himself bound in the basement of Gidi’s home. The rest of this film plays out mostly in this basement and this latter half of the film is made of stuff tighter than the highest trapeze wire.
Though I don’t recognize any of the Israeli actors, all of them deliver performances of the tip toppest of calibers. Ashkenazi is fantastic as the desperate cop whose life is crumbling around him. Keinan juggles the truth like a circus clown and while one minute you’re convinced he did the crime, the actor flips and you believe he is falsely accused. Grad’s calm demeanor is haunting to watch. He is a shell of a man without his daughter and is out to make someone pay. And despite the fact that he looks somewhat similar to Larry David, Doval’e Glickman is fantastic as Gidi’s father, the comedic relief/voice of morality of the film. Seeing these four actors slam into one another is amazing.
Be they long takes of the camera following a hammer down a long hallway or tight shots of the facial reactions of Dror strapped to his chair or the calm demeanor Gidi seems to have through it all, the filmmakers make every scene count big, working towards an ending that resonates on levels upon levels. I was moved so much by the ending of this film and feel it’s one of the most powerful in modern cinema.
BIG BAD WOLVES doesn’t have big stars or over the top effects. But it is packing some of the most potent emotional power you’re going to find in a film this year. Keshales and Papushado are going to be huge one they hit mainstream. See BIG BAD WOLVES and their previous film RABIES now and be one of the cool ones who knew them before they break out.
Touring the festival circuit, it looks as if BIG BAD WOLVES is going to be released late this year, so you won’t have to wait long to see one of the most emotionally horrifying and masterfully executed film of the year.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 3. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in October 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel through Hermes Press). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment & GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81. Look for GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES available in February-July 2013 and the new UNLEASHED crossover miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1-3 available in May-July 2013! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
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