Inside the NYJFF: The imaginary voyages of Empty Nest

“If I imagine a voyage, it will be to Israel,” Empty Nest director Daniel Burman told NYJFF correspondent Ronit Waisbrod, “and if I think of a party—[it will be] a bar mitzvah. In the case of choosing Israel [as a setting for the film], it has to do with personal feelings of my first trip—a fantastic reality and yet so abstract. I do not know what my Jewish sensibility is. I do not even want to know it, in order to avoid speculating.  Jewishness extends itself through my production and my life in a natural way and I do not wish to know about the mystery of its dynamics.”

Empty Nest follows the fortunes of playwright Leonardo and hyperactive housewife Martha as they struggle to redefine themselves and their relationship after their kids have grown. When the couple travels to Israel to visit their youngest daughter and her husband, their vacation at the Dead Sea becomes a floating, surreal experience. “We live permanently running away from reality in order to tolerate it,” Burman said of his creative approach. “The protagonist Dr. Spivach is like an imaginary friend that we had in our childhood. When we become adults, we still keep him in mind but do not talk about him. He is a person to whom we talk while waiting at a traffic light or standing in line at the airport. Our fantasy world is much richer than the one we call reality, which is so limited, sad, painful or boring.”

The filmmaker describes his experience at festivals as wide-ranging: “The film was in several festivals (Toronto, San Sebastian, Jerusalem, Sao Paulo, etc.) The reactions are very different. Every screening is like the first, and the nerves are never lost. The Jewish audience at the festivals are sometimes more sensible to certain points that other audiences overlook, and this sometimes makes the Q&A very attractive and sometimes very tense.”

Judaism has a way of creeping into each of the filmmaker’s works, whether he is aware of it or not. “If you had asked me yesterday, I would have said that the new film I am working on has nothing to do with Jewish themes. But it is always like this. I start deciding “nothing about Judaism this time” and at the end it does come out.”

-Ronit Waisbrod, New York Jewish Film Festival correspondent

Buy tickets to Empty Nest: Tue Jan 20: 1:30 & 6
Wed Jan 21: 8:30

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

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