Moshe & Amira | JFI Online Short: April 2022

The Jewish Film Institute is pleased to present “Moshe & Amira” as the Online Short of the Month for April 2022. Read a short interview with director Eliot Gelberg-Wilson below.

About the Film: When a Jewish boy and a Muslim girl’s families meet for the first time, an unexpected incident threatens their relationship. The film explores cultural and religious identity in modern British society through the paradigm of a tragicomedy.

Jewish Film Institute: Tell us about the genesis of this film. What inspired you to tell this story?

Eliot Gelberg-Wilson: I had the idea for this film pretty much since I began making films, but it really came into form one day when I was listening to the old Jewish song ‘Nigun Atik.’ I think it illuminated a feeling of otherness I feel as a Jewish person, which, as a white Jew, is deeply ingrained and yet not very perceptible from the outside. I thought about what this would mean in a relationship with someone whose otherness is very much perceptible from the outside. I also know lots of Islamic people and am struck by the marginalization they experience in the UK, particularly in relation to the history of my family and community. When making the film, I was asking myself two questions: on a personal level, how can we help the people we love when we have both similarities and differences? And on a broader level, what can Jewish people do when we see people suffering from what we suffered not so long ago?

Tell us a funny story about making the film.

Not so much a funny story but quite a bizarre one. I am very into developing character and performance collaboratively with actors, so we would do lots of improvs before shooting scenes. We shot the moment at the dinner table after the alleyway scene before we shot the alleyway scene, so I was thinking how to get Komal (Amira) and Jake (Moshe) into that mood of separation after the alleyway incident. We walked around the corner to an alleyway to improv the alleyway scene. On the way, we saw something strange — a small person, fully in pink, sitting and sulking on the wall outside a house. We got closer and realized it was a child in a Cheshire Cat onesie. I walked over and asked if he was OK. He was crying. Suddenly, he got up and, like a cat, scampered back into one of the houses. After checking everything was alright, we did our improv, but it was really this bizarre experience that led to the feeling of ‘offness’ when we shot the scene.

What are you working on now?

Moshe & Amira was my graduation film from film school, and not long after I graduated Covid hit! But I have been lucky that I have been able to use the time to develop more projects, and I’ve got two shorts that are set to be shot over the next year, one of which is about a Jewish family hosting a Bosnian refugee in the 1990s. I am also developing a feature script. Outside of fiction, I love making films for and with artists: I’ve been fortunate enough to work with cultural institutions and record labels to shoot promos and performance films for musicians, visual artists, and other performers over the last couple of years.

About the Filmmaker: Eliot Gelberg-Wilson is a filmmaker from London. He is interested in films about identity, society and hidden desires. He studied MA Filmmaking at London Film School, where he won a Creative Skillset Scholarship. His latest short film Moshe & Amira, stars prestigious British actors Jake Mann and Komal Amin, and has screened at festivals worldwide. Eliot recently directed music promos and films for Pumarosa, Thomas Sanders, AGAMA and Zuu Music, The Cartoon Museum, and anthropologist Robin Dunbar, which have been promoted by the United Nations and Bertha DocHouse.

JFI Online Shorts features one new short film each month from emerging and established filmmakers. Since 2009, JFI has showcased over 100 online shorts and garnered worldwide views over 2 million on the JFI Youtube channel. Learn more at www.jfi.org.

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Jewish Film Institute

Jewish Film Institute

The Jewish Film Institute, based in San Francisco, champions bold films and filmmakers that expand and evolve the Jewish story for audiences everywhere. jfi.org