I was born and raised in Yehiam – one of the most beautiful kibbutzes in Israel. At the top of the kibbutz, high above, is the Yehiam Fortress, behind which lies one of the most mythical stories of heroism of Israel. The story of a handful of men and women from a small kibbutz who in the War of Independence stopped Kaukji’s rescue army and heroically liberated the Western Galilee. A kibbutz of tough cowboys, who during the Second Lebanon War, when missiles were flying all over the north of the country, they decided to turn off the sirens in my Kibbutz because it bothered the old people when sleeping. Instead, text messages were sent to our mobile phones containing two words: Missile Alert. And as a result, we were the only spot in the country where you could take a nap in the afternoon.
But not really.
Who can sleep quietly knowing your younger brother fights a few miles from you on the other side of the border, deep inside Lebanon? After all, he enlisted in combat unit because of you, because you enlisted in combat because of your older brother. What choice was he left with?
In The Dive I ask what happens when you come from such a kibbutz and a close family, but then something in you breaks. What happens when your brothers, whom you love more than anything are called to fight, while you, who suffers from post-traumatic stress from a previous war, are left behind, devoured by worries with only a bottle of cheap whiskey connected to your veins? You doubt the easiness your brothers are sent to war, but you do not know if you doubt the need for that war because you are afraid for doubting that need to begin with. What happens when the world in which you grew up – the Kibbutz – a world that represented a great idea, also falls apart before your eyes, and only the fortress – which symbolizes everything that you were intended to be – remains in his Hutzpa, defiant and unbreakable?
My two real brothers and I play the roles of the three brothers the film is centered around. I do not know why exactly, but I chose to play the role of the elder, militant brother, a role that is the farthest from who I am. I think it is my way of saying a farewell to a part me which existed in the past. Yoel – my younger brother – plays my character: a post-traumatic man. When I tell him in the film that he is a coward, I am actually saying that to myself, as if I were encouraging myself to try to return to be something I know I would never be again. My two brothers play opposites to their real life characters too. Yoel plays the broken one, when in fact he is more like the older brother, the character I play. Micha, the youngest brother, plays a soldier who does not want to go to war. In their real lives, as they have already done, if they are called for the next war, the chances are that they will go because in Israel you go when they call you. For me, the most important thing that happened in this film is that for a month, they were allowed to break from their own characters and play men with doubt.
All three of us had fears about the making of the film. I was afraid that I was biting more than I could chew. I am not a professional actor, Yoel just finished theater school and barely had any experience, and Micha acted in one short film. Hardly the experience needed to take on something of this magnitude. It was also my DOP’s first feature, my producers’ too, and my editor’s second. For me, it was like sailing to an unknown scary destination knowing I had a crew I could trust. More than anything, I had my brothers who I trust more than anyone. When they didn’t act, they produced, handled the (too) many animals on set, made food, worked in the camera and lightning department, and were all over the place. It was in that way that I imagined how film should be made, in a controlled chaos filled with heart and devotion. Slowly the film started to imitate the reality on set. When I directed them it was similar to the way I trained them in the film. Everything began to mix, the roles, the characters, me, them, the story, the set, my scars. Our life.
Watch The Dive at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival on September 12 (Premiere), September 14, and September 16. Click here for details.