VERONICA Kedar describes her latest film, Family, as a ‘fucked up family drama’. Visually astounding and laced with dark humour, it tells the story of a woman who claims to have killed her family.
With UK audiences being treated to Family at Raindance Film Festival (28 and 29 September), James Prestridge caught up with Veronica for an in-depth chat about the film.
Q: As I understand it, Family begins with a women confessing that she has murdered her family. Was this your starting point when conceptualising the film?
A: I think Family came to my head for two reasons. For years I had wanted to create my own version of an ‘Israeli family drama’. Israeli cinema is addicted to family dramas and many Israeli films are about dysfunctional families – but they never quite stylised it. I wanted to create the most fucked up family drama Israeli cinema has ever seen and then take the “drama” to another level.
This specific story came to me as I thought of a scene in which a young photographer can only take a picture of her loved ones when they’re dead. I had written the scene long before I started writing the story and it stayed with me for years. Finally the time came to turn that scene into a film.
Q: You play the central character Lily. Can you tell us more about her and the position she finds herself in?
A: LILY is a young woman with big dreams of becoming a photographer. She hides her dream from her family, who don’t really care who she really is. Her father needs her so he can look like a good father, her mom and sister need her to take care of them and her brother needs a fantasy. Lily is everybody’s something – but nothing of her own. Just like any girl who wants to become her own woman, Lily must disconnect from her family and discover herself. In this coming of age tale, it means getting rid of her family.
Q: Family appears to follow on from Joe + Belle in dealing with dark and macabre themes. Why do you feel you are drawn to stories like this?
A: GROWING up in a tough, violent country like Israel – I had to find a way to escape reality. I remember the first thing I knew about my country, is that if I get on a bus I might blow up. I remember the news broadcasting bodies and blood on prime time. I was shocked seeing these images at such a young age. The only way to calm myself down was to write the blood in stories of my own and control the horror. Escaping into my own make-believe violence made the reality around me go away. Putting humour into the violence made it bearable.
Q: I enjoyed Bruno Savil de Jong’s description of the film as ‘a grim funhouse mirror for everyone’s experiences [of family life].’ Is this a reflection, albeit a very dark one, of your own family experiences?
A: I think that when you look back at your childhood, you remember things that were wrong. Realising your parents aren’t the superheroes you thought they were is a huge disappointment for any kid. You start to wonder whether it’s your memory that’s cruel or just the whole world. My parents (whom I love deeply) have made mistakes. My friends parents have made worse. I don’t think you can find a perfect family. And if you think you have, you probably just have a bad memory…
Q: Does this dysfunctional family dynamic speak to deeper problems in society?
A: ISRAELI society defiantly has impact on my writing. Ever since the current prime minister has been elected, I can see the values I grew up on slowly dying. The people becoming poor, angry and violent.
There is so much violence in Israel – even when you just walk down the street. This country who once believed in peace is now thirsty for blood. People are miserable and our values are simply twisted. There is no sense of community. It’s each to their own.
You become violent in your home when on the outside you are not getting what you need from your government. It sinks in. It’s hard to live in a place where your government gets a hard on from war. I really hope the next government will bring back what I once loved about my country.
Q: Can you tell us about the cast for Family and the atmosphere you wanted to foster during filming?
A: THE actors who play the parents are Israeli legends and it was a huge honour to work with them. The sister is a very close friend who played the part perfectly and the brother and Talia (the psychologist’s daughter) I met in the auditions and was shocked by how talented they were.
We shot in Germany where we stayed in separate rooms and were pretty much shut out from the world. Being isolated for shooting really helped the actors, who were not in touch with anyone during the shoot. It might sound like I’m a bitch, but I asked the crew not to talk to the actors on set – to make them feel even more isolated and lonely. The only reality they knew at the time of the shooting was isolation. So I think it worked out pretty well.
Q: Your creative hands are all over this film. What do you enjoy about the challenge of writing, directing, acting and editing a film?
A: EVERY time I attend a screening, I like to think back to the time when all this was just an idea. It’s crazy to see how something starts out from a line on a paper and becomes a project so many people are involved in.
I hate writing because it’s a lonely job. Directing is fun, it’s like being queen of the playground, but you have to pretend you know what you’re doing – even if you don’t. So it’s challenging. When I act, I feel like I’m directing undercover. Editing is my favourite part. I feel like that’s the place I can really express myself. That’s the part where you can finally see what the hell you were working on this whole time. That’s where the magic happens and the film becomes a film.
Q: I’ve watched the teaser numerous times and I am endlessly intrigued by some of the provocative visuals. Can you tell us about the visual style and tone of the Family?
A: I am really proud of what Family looks like. The combination of the amazingly talented cinematographer Christian Huck with the setting of the genius production designer Yoel Hertzberg turned the film location into the haunted house I’ve always dreamed of. The house starts out as an old house, cold and dusty. Slowly there’s bloodshed, things break, pictures fall off of the walls – and the house slowly looks like Lily feels.
I wanted the house to play a critical role in the film because Family is home. It was a pleasure working with these people and the way the film looks is a dream come true for me.
Q: Family has impressed audiences at festivals around the world. What should UK audience expect from the film when it screens at Raindance?
A: I think the British have the best humour in the world, so I’m thrilled to be screening in the UK. They should expect a sometimes funny, sometimes tragic and sometimes moving film. Hopefully they’ll like it and ask me to stay and make films in the UK.