Filmmaker Q&A — Evelin Kachuin, Director, “Elina”

Q: What inspired you to make this film?

A: As a Russian immigrant I have never felt 100 percent Israeli and have never felt 100 percent Russian. Although as a kid I desperately wanted to fit the Israeli society and to feel like I belong among my classmates, it never happened to me. As time passed by, I feel that I’ve became a person with a broken identity. When I’m hanging out with my Israeli friends they will always find a moment to remind me that I am Russian, “You just said it right now with a Russian accent”. When I am hanging out with my Russian friends, they would say “You are too Israeli, you don’t behave like a Russian”. That’s why I have decided to make my film and deal with this issue. I think It doesn’t matter where you come from, each of us had a situation in his life, in which he really wanted to feel like he belongs. And this point my film is meeting the audience up.

Q: What was your greatest challenge during the filmmaking process?

A: The greatest challenge I’ve experienced during the filmmaking process was working with a seven-year old kid — Shelly Korotkov. Kids have their moods, they can’t be concentrated for a long time. They have their schedules during the day and it is so hard to fit in the whole crew and production into these patterns, especially when you shoot day for night scenes. Shelly really wanted to sleep but I couldn’t let her leave because we hadn’t got a good take yet. I tried to keep her awake with chocolate and unplanned breaks. In the end the scene where she was tired and could hardly speak was the best scene in the whole movie. The scene came out real, sensitive and deep.

Q: Any thoughts you’d like to share about screening this film in a Jewish context?

A: I am not an orthodox Jew but I do observe most of the Jewish traditions. I eat kosher food, I don’t mix milk and meat and I light candles on Friday evening to meet the Shabbat. I try to do my best because I want to do it and nowadays I understand why am I doing it. But unfortunately I can’t be 100 percent traditional, because I was not born to that kind of family and I cannot fake it playing an orthodox Jew. Racheli Kind who plays the teacher in my film, she is a good person, she is trying to help when she asks Elina’s mom not to buy in Russian stores, but on the other hand that what makes Elina’s mom feel like a stranger. When I moved to Israel I had an orthodox Jew neighbor who tried to make me to become newly religious, I tried not to disappoint her and did my best but every time I’ve entered her house I felt like I don’t belong. I feel some kind of ambivalence about my religion and I tried to put it into my film.

Q: What film/media has inspired you lately?

A: Recently I’ve watched “Manchester by the sea” written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan. It impressed me the way Lonergan uses Classical music, how he combines the music with the drama happening on the screen, giving the opportunity to each musical note to tell his story. And of course I was fascinated by the film itself in general. The story, the acting, the cinematography. Simple, real, clean and touching exactly as I like it as a director.

Q: What do you do when you’re not filmmaking?

A: I am an actress in Jaffa Theater and a drama teacher. Writing and Performing in Writing Comedy Festivals.

Q: Lastly, gefilte fish: delicious, or disgusting?

A: Depends who is making it and how. But obviously yes! With a horseradish!

Each month, the Jewish Film Institute presents a new free short film to watch online from emerging voices in Jewish documentary, narrative and experimental filmmaking, accompanied by an interview with the film’s director. To watch more JFI Online Shorts, visit the archive of free films here.

Inspiring communities to expand their understanding of Jewish life through film, media and dialogue. Presented by the Jewish Film Institute!

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