Magazine article Screen International

Haifa: Avi Nesher Talks Holocaust Drama 'Past Life'

Magazine article Screen International

Haifa: Avi Nesher Talks Holocaust Drama 'Past Life'

Article excerpt

Veteran Israeli writer/director Avi Nesher was hesitant when composer Ella Milch-Sheriffasked him to tell the emotional story of her father, Baruch Milch, a Holocaust survivor who had a dark secret from his years living in Poland during the Second World War.

Nesher, himself the son of a Holocaust survivor, was not sure he was the right man to helm this project. "[Ella] approached me with her father's diary," he recalls. "I said no, because I want to make movies I know about. All my movies are very personal, I have to be able to connect to the story."

The director then realised, however, that the narrative naturally focused on the man's daughters in 1977 - played by Joy Rieger and Nelly Tagar - as they delve into the dark mysteries of their father's past. "I realised it was the story of Ella and her sister," he says. "These two girls are haunted by this dark secret. I understood the sisters; one struggles with being an artist and shaking herself free from the traditions of music school."

Indeed, this reminded him of his own first feature, The Troupe, which he made aged just 23, despite being told it would never work (the film went on to become a huge hit). "I know about going to a school and having a system imposed on you, and having to rebel," he says.

Past Life is Nesher's 20th feature, following notable titles including Rage & Glory (1984), Timebomb (1991), The Secrets (2007), The Matchmaker (2010) and The Wonders (2013). Many of these films also explore themes of how "our future and present are shaped by our past", the director says. "Making movies about the past is trying to understand the present."

In particular, Past Life also explores "redemption and letting go". It is not a typical Holocaust film, he asserts: "It's usually absolute evil and absolute good in Holocaust movies. …

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