November’s Online Short: FELICE NEL BOX

November 2, 2015

JFI presents Felice Nel Box (Happy in a Box) as our official Online Short of November!

In this charming and whimsical short comedy, Stefano, a Jewish photographer in Milan, while on an assignment nearby, instinctively takes a tombstone from a derelict Jewish cemetery, which he then keeps in his garage for over thirty years. Then one day a ghost from the 18th century haunts Stefano and his modern day family. (Italy, 2014, Italian w/ subtitles, 24 min.)

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In Hebrew, Ghila means means “joy”, and in Indonesian it means “crazy.” I consider myself a spontaneous and enthusiastic creature and crazy joy seams like an apt fit.

Craving novelty and adventure, I left my hometown , Milano when I was 19. I moved to Paris for two years, studying Painting and Illustration, living the “Bohemian Life”. It was pure magic. Giving in to my adventurous spirit yet again, I moved to New York, to finish my BFA in Illustration and Animation. In New York, my idealistic utopian existence was put to a test. I was confronted with the everyday reality of survival, and was kidnapped by the advertising world. I became fascinated by it. Psychology expressed visually — it was dangerously brilliant. Under the powerful influence of media I moved to Los Angeles, to continue to pursue my dream of becoming a Filmmaker/Storyteller. I have now been back in Italy (Milano) for the past 3 years working as a freelance Set Designer and Director but mostly I pursued the goal to make my first short film Felice Nel Box, that so far has given me satisfaction traveling world wide in many different film festivals.

Six Questions for Director Ghila Valabrega

What inspired you to make this film?

Well the story is based on a true family tale. It’s based on us rediscovering a tombstone in our garage. It was so incredible that making a film about it came super natural.

What was your greatest challenge during the filmmaking process?

Well being my first film, every step was a bit hard, but at the same time challenging in a good way. Finding sponsors and money to make it took me almost 2 years but it was fun too. I partially followed my father steps (where he first brought the tombstone) I was bringing my film… first to the “Rabbino capo di Milano” then to the reforme and eventually also to the lubavitch.

It took one year of friendship with a Hassidic family to convince them to be in my film (shabbat, hannukah, pesach always together).

“In Italy as much as we do have Jewish heritage,

we don’t know Jewish humor or culture…”

But as an over all I loved to produce and find solutions to problems so it was great as an overall. I have always had a thing for the supernatural and for comedy… ghosts are a great subject and something that is understandable (even if strange), worldwide. I love the mystical side of Judaism… and if it was for me in the next films I’ll go deeper in.

The idea of replicating my family on camera was fun..I belive my family is very particular and hope to have given justice with my film. I have in storage a family trilogy and then I can move on over to the many stories I’ld like to tell!

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

It’s incredible! Especially because in Italy as much as we do have Jewish heritage we don’t know Jewish humor or culture, in Italy people had a hard time understanding jokes and humor of Felice nel Box…so many people didn’t even know what kosher meant. But I do hope that this kind of film will help spread a general knowledge of Jewish culture for non-Jews, because when you know something you respect it and have no fear.

What film/media has inspired you lately?

I can say I love magic realism, Michel Gondry (Eternal sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Science of Dream), Emir Kusturica (Underground), Jean- Pierre Jeunet (Amelie)…but I do love Roman Polanski too. I wach film almost every day…and so many different kinds as well.

What do you do when you’re not filmmaking?

I work as a freelance illustrator/animator part time and Assistant Director for food commercials on the other. I do love to cook too so I try doing a different recipe at least 3 times a week. And as soon as I can I love to travel… world I’m coming!

Lastly, gefilte fish: delicious, or disgusting?

Haha I eat everything..but of typical jewish food I must say I adore hummus and baba ganoush (home made of course).

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