Back in February, we told you about the edgy Israeli film Barash. Wanting to know more, we reached out to the film’s out writer/director, Michal Vinik. She was kind enough to chat with us about all things Barash, including her choice to cast queer leads, why the film isn’t about coming out and how she didn’t intentionally write a love story.
Warning: Spoilers ahead
AfterEllen.com: What was it about the themes you explored in this film that captivated you so much to begin with?
Michal Vinik: It begins even earlier. My shorts were about young women discovering their sexuality in an Israeli context. Always in an Israeli context. That’s what I talked about from the beginning, because this is my life basically. And so when I went into writing the feature film, I just did the same thing.
AE: Aside from Naama discovering she likes girls, we also see her sister running off to be with a man and expressing her sexuality that way. So it definitely seems like a film about female sexuality in general.
MV: I think almost every sexuality is different. I don’t know what the normal sexuality is. I don’t think there is something like that. I love boys and girls. I don’t know what normal is. So for me, it was just like an experiment trying to see what happens when two sisters have different concepts of love.
AE: What got me right away about your film was how edgy the lives of these young women were. Is that typical of Israeli cinema, or are we in the West just not used to seeing this type of Israeli film?
MV: When I started writing the film, I had this feeling that I can’t find myself on screen because the girls that I saw on screen, the young girls, they had different lives than me and my friends. So actually I just wrote our lives, basically. And when we shot the film, we didn’t have a lot of budget. So we shot in real parties. Not for the film–real parties in Tel Aviv. So I don’t know about Israeli cinema. I can tell you that in Israeli life, it’s totally reasonable.
AE: Naama and Dana [Hershko] are quite different in terms of personality. What is it about each girl that attracts the other?
MV: The only way for [Naama] to open the door to the lesbian world is through a character like Hershko, which is extreme and offers a new world and a new meaning and a new life. And it comes with a heavy price, but I think that’s what growing up is about.
AE: And for Dana? What do you think she sees in Naama?
MV: I don’t know actually. I don’t really have an answer to that question. For her, it doesn’t have the same weight. She already did stuff. For her, it’s a girl in school that you can turn her head and see what happens. It’s not really a love story. Not from her end. I don’t think Hershko would say this is a love story.
AE: Watching it, though, I definitely felt there was something between the two of them. But I can see where you’re coming from.
MV: It’s a small town, so it’s like the only queer girl around. But in the script, Hershko was not in love at all with Naama. And when we cast the girls, they had this chemistry and something happened. It became more of a love story. In the script, it was really heartbreaking because Naama didn’t see the reality from the beginning. But I like to–they’re not actresses, and I like to use the people that I work with to see what happens.
Something developed. Something that I can’t even put in words because I didn’t write it. It just happened between them, which was really nice. They have a very funny relationship until now.
AE: I have to ask: why do they have a “funny relationship”?
MV: Because it’s not similar to the film, but it has some things from it. And when they travel together to festivals, and I watch it, I don’t know, I laugh. Because now I know why I cast them. There’s something real there.