Interview with documentary filmmaker Anat Even

Anat Even

Interview and editing: Rotem Pesachovish Paz

Anat Even is an independent documentary filmmaker who has been awarded prizes for her films in local and international film festivals and art exhibitions. She and Ran Tal are editors of the online documentary film journal Takriv (Hebrew for ‘closeup’), and was the art director of the Rabinowitz Foundation. In 2004 she was granted the film arts award by the Ministry of Education, and in 2011, the Landau Award. Even has taught film in Sapir College for many years, and is a gifted teacher for numerous students, including this interviewer. This interview focuses on the unique use she has made of archive materials in “Closure” (“After the End” in Hebrew), her 2009 film that was cited as outstanding in the Wolgin Competition at the Jerusalem Film Festival, and awarded second prize at the Visions du Reél festival in Switzerland.

Anat, I am thrilled to interview you. We shall soon elaborate on your film “Closure”, but I would first like to hear when you were first exposed to the idea of creating a film story relying on archive material. I would also like to know which film represents the best use of archive materials, in your opinion.

Anat Even: Interestingly, you bind the title of the film with archive materials – this was not my intention. Archive materials have been present in films for many years, and I was exposed to them just as many others have been. The question that intrigues me is how they are used, and to what end. The film that comes to mind is “Blockade” by Sergey Loznitsa, of 2005 – a full length black-and-white film comprised entirely of news archive materials, containing only images without any dialogue or text, and local sound mostly reconstructed. It describes the three years of siege of Leningrad in the Second World War. It is indeed a historical film, but its maker’s present point of view and his specific choice to focus on the everyday lives of the city’s residents during the war, inside a city under siege, make it a philosophical chef d’oeuvre about the human condition in times of war.

What unique value do you find in archive materials?

That depends on the context. I can watch archive materials as historical and be drawn in very excitedly. Since I have never made a film comprised entirely of archive materials, when I do look for them, they should conduct an enriching dialogue with the present.

“Closure” is a film journal that deals with your own personal loss, the death of your brother Udi. I watched it again before this interview, and felt that it is a song of praise of the filmed archive – that which remains after the end. In the film you build a chronology, but around it you weave archive photography that is both historical and “homemade”, or creative processes that are not chronological and originate in various places. I would like to hear a bit about making the film – did you plan ahead to shoot through the window, or did this happen intuitively?

Knowing that Udi’s yard was going to be buried under a four-story building, and that my gaze through the window would be gone, moved me to place my camera by the window and look out. I wished to stop time and watch the transformation of the neighborhood parallel to my own coping with the loss of Udi, to experience the same dramatic changes taking place outside and inside, in me. Namely, connecting the private and the public, the personal and the political, the social and the economic spheres motivated this film. I think that without this connection, I would not have made it.

I knew that I would not move the camera away from the window until the building wall would be complete and block my vision of the outside. This was the only aesthetic decision I took. All the rest was a mystery. There was no plan nor script, I let time and my gaze do their work. The filming act brought on the need to look for more materials that would expand the perspective of the place, and reflect my mood and whatever was going on through the window. One of the thrilling moments I had during the shooting and the search in archives was when I found still photos of the ravine being dug, and the Ottoman (Turkish) railroad installed, and I discovered that the photographer had taken them standing precisely at the spot where I stand today. The two of us, a century apart, have photographed the site’s transformation from exactly the same point of view.

In the film You use several types of archive material. Home photography, footage from the Zik archive describing the group’s creative work – in which your brother, Udi, is present as well – and the historical takes of one-hundred years ago. Could you share with us the process of mapping and choosing the archive materials woud interspersed in the film?

“Closure” is part of a trilogy about Israel-Palestine, alongside “Mikdamot” (2005) and “Disappearances” (2017). The three differ in style but share a joint ideological basis. In all three films, I look at various places in this country as memory spaces. I look at the present and discover the past with a quasi-archeological gaze that exposes life that bustled here earlier and was totally erased. The hidden, denied narrative.

In all three films I interspersed archive materials. I do not always think about these in the earlier phases of making the film. Sometimes they enter it after the shooting, with the deciphering of new images. I look for materials that will serve the story and concept of the film. “Closure” is a story of loss and coping with the death of my closest beloved, as well as the story of destruction and construction, in the brutal neo-liberal reality in which we live. Combining images of the present with the images of creation and destruction of material by the Zik group, or with historical and home-made images, enables me to watch the processes of change that I and the site have undergone. This transformation is both a concrete image in the film and a metaphor.

On one hand, the film is built chronologically and divided into months. On the other hand, it is interspersed with archive materials of past years. Would you speak about the process of composing the scenes and the script – did you write a script first or did the film take shape as you edited it?

The journal-like shooting through the window creates a chronological timeline of the going-on in public space through the seasons of the year. The set, static gaze through the window lets one’s mind fly freely forward and back, to imagine, create connections and imbue concrete or abstract contexts with new meanings. The process of editing is dynamic and done conjointly with the editor: we try to decipher the raw materials through my own point of view. I could define the present materials as images of time and space, and the archive materials as those of the mind. The chronicle – shaped by the journal-like shooting and disrupted by archive materials – creates a multi-textural, multi-voiced montage that sharpens my point of view, and constructs my interpretation of life’s reality.

The final shot of the film is extraordinary. Why did you wish to finish it this way?

I thought the film would end with the white wall that would block any gaze, light and air – and in truth I shot the completion of the wall like a person drowning, trying to raise their nose above water. But it was too difficult to end in a state of suffocation. I think
it was Oron Adar, the film’s editor, who suggested climbing the Neve Tzedek tower, whose construction I had also followed from the beginning, and shooting Tel Aviv from the top of the tower’s 42 stories – the city that keeps changing, and the horizon that offers hope. This is what remains after the end – hope – without which life would be unbearable.

One last question, before we conclude. The archive materials kept in the Israel Film Archive at the Jerusalem Cinematheque are now accessible to the public more than ever, as well as to filmmakers. How do you think this could affect future work and cinematic language?

I have no idea how this will affect filmmakers in the future, but the fact that materials are now more accessible than ever gives me hope that they will continue to be used sensitively and wisely, and tell unknown film stories.

View Anat Even’s Films on our Web Site