In the Jewish Film Institute’s Online Short of September 2018, a peculiar graveside encounter forces an emotionally detached and introverted widower to cope with all he has struggled to suppress.
Dir. Efrat Raz, Israel, 2016, 13 minutes, Hebrew w/ English subtitles
JFI: What inspired you to make this film?
Efrat Raz: One man left flowers on his wife’s grave when suddenly he saw a Chinese man putting a bowl full of rice over the adjacent tombstone. The man then asked: “Do you really believe the dead will come out of the grave to eat this rice?”, to which the Chinese man replied: “Yes, as soon as your wife comes out to smell the flowers.”
The moral of this short story is to respect one another. The year I lost my mother, blessed be her memory, as I was dealing constantly with mourning, grief and living with the loss, this story helped me realize that there was no right or wrong way when it comes to dealing with such things. This realization inspired me to make ‘Milestone’ and was the foundation of my idea for the films’ story.
JFI: What was your greatest challenge during the filmmaking process?
Raz: The process of making a film is a very complex one, filled with challenges all along the way.
During the work on “Milestone”, one of the main challenges with which I found myself facing, was finding the right location for the shooting of the film: a cemetery that will visually express the idea that life and death co-exist side by side in all aspects.
When I saw the cemetery of “Givat Hashlosha” Kibbutz, I instantly felt that it encapsulated this idea. The graves and tombstones in the cemetery on the one hand, and the green, flourishing trees and vegetation on the other, created a visual harmony of contradictions, and so illustrated the notion of death as a part of life (and vice versa).
JFI: Any thoughts you’d like to share about screening this film in a Jewish context?
Raz: The purpose of the Jewish mourning customs is both paying our respects to the dead but also to provide the mourners with the tools to deal with the difficult tragedy that they are going through so that they will not carry with them a never-ending feeling of loss and grief that will make it difficult for them to function properly.
The nature of those mourning customs makes it impossible to deny and repress the mourning and the loss. This is the process which I wanted to show in the film through the characters of Boaz, who is closed off and introverted, and the extrovert Ayala, who challenges Boaz to face his grief and pain head on.
JFI: What film/media has inspired you lately?
Raz: A recent work that I’ve been inspired by is an Israeli drama/comedy series titled “On the Spectrum”.
This series follows three young people who are on the autistic spectrum. The three share an apartment and each one of them deals with the outside world in their own way and on his own terms.
In my opinion, the series is full of wit and its writing is emotional and touching. The acting is magnificent, the direction is precise, and the cinematography paints the picture of the world as seen through the eyes of those who rarely get the center stage. The combination of all those ingredients presents the complexity in being different while also showing where there are similarities in the worldview. All this results in wonderful TV magic.
This series makes me want to create, through films works that will touch upon sensitive subjects and that will enable the viewers to experience moments of human emotion that we all experience, but not always look straight upon and take them in.
JFI: What do you do when you’re not filmmaking?
Raz: When not making films, I’m producing events and special projects for the Herzliyya Cinematheque, such as lectures and artist workshops, dedicated activities for kids, film-related competitions and more.
Other than that, my favorite activities are traveling all over the world, reading books and listening to podcasts. Recently I also picked up learning Spanish and Italian.
JFI: Lastly, gefilte fish: delicious, or disgusting?
Raz: Gefilte fish isn’t really my thing…
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.