Inside the NYJFF: From Uncle Vanya, the inspiration for Weekend in Galilee

With Weekend in Galilee, a selection of the New York Jewish Film Festival, acclaimed Academy Award-winning filmmaker Moshe Mizrahi tells the story of secret passions and brewing jealousies boiling to the surface between a distinguished professor and his young wife on a retreat.

New York Jewish Film Festival correspondent Ronit Waisbrod talked with the filmmaker about his inspiration.

RW: Why did you set the story in 1996?

MM: I wanted to tell a story that would describe the mood of the people who were among the founders of the state of Israel. I also wanted to tell about generational gaps within the Israeli society. 1996 seemed like an end of a chapter; it was a year after Rabin’s murder, and the Israeli army still in Lebanon; there was a palpable change in mood and atmosphere. I started hearing phrases like ‘No more Israel as we knew it’ or ‘our country is gone’ that depicted frustration and disappointment. I wanted to describe the mood that brought people to feel this way and I decided to make this film as a tribute these people.

RW: Why did you choose Chekhov’s ‘Uncle Vanya’ as a parallel background and inspiration?

MM: For a long time I wanted to make a film about the changes that happened in the Israeli society, its perception and behavior. I was looking for a fictional core and remembered a conversation I had many years ago in France with a friend about a story he wanted to convey about a society in conflict. At that time I recommended him to use Chekhov as an inspiration. Many years later I took my own advice; I had my characters and their dynamics form in my head and I was looking for a framework. I love 19th century literature, I love Chekhov, and I love what literary parallelism brings to a story. Using Chekhov’s spirit as a backdrop to my Israeli story gave me an opportunity to use ‘Chekhovian’ style that emphasizes character and mood.

RW: I see many controversial issues raised in your film: three different wars, sentiments of blame and guilt (‘we eat our children’), the young Israeli men and women who are soul-searching and wandering, the urbanization of the Galilee, etc. Is it your intention to send a political message to the viewers?

MM: I don’t think so. In every narrative there is a message but my intention in the film was to tell the story and convey the mood of certain people in Israel in 1996; a mood that continues to this day and experienced by many Israelis.

Buy tickets to Weekend in Galilee: Sat Jan 17: 9

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Explore posts in the same categories: festival dispatches, Filmmaker interviews, NY Jewish Film Festival, on @ the walter reade

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