The Literature Final | JFI Online Short: April 2024

Jewish Film Institute
4 min readApr 1, 2024
Stills from The Literature Final. Courtesy of Amit Shamir.

The Jewish Film Institute presents The Literature Final as our Online Short for the month of April 2024.

In April 2018, an Israeli class took a trip to Tzafit river, when a powerful flash flood took the lives of ten young members. Thoughts of “what could have been” permeate the mind of a teenage girl who decided to take her literature final exam instead.

Watch the film and read an exclusive JFI intervew with director Amit Shamir.

Jewish Film Institute: How did you come across Roni’s story, and what compelled you to make a film about her experiences?

Amit Shamir: A couple of years ago I relocated to the Israeli Arava desert. I began teaching empowerment workshops using films, mostly for pre-military groups. During that time I learned more about the desert flood disaster, which occurred on April 26, 2018, where ten pre-military students died in a flash flood in Tzafit river during a class trip.

The film tells the story of Roni, who was part of that class. She was absent that day, due to a literature final exam she had to take. An exam that might have saved her life. When I heard about Roni’s story, I was interested in showing the broader circles of trauma. It’s an issue that is rarely spoken of or treated.

Being a literature fan myself, I was curious to check which poetry pieces were part of her exam paper that day, and was astonished to see the words take on a much more profound and deeper meaning while intertwined with those tragic day’s occurrences. I chose to incorporate those words throughout the film, which echo in both Roni and the viewer’s mind while walking that same desert route. To me, Roni’s story is about “what if” thoughts that plague us all, a reminder of life’s fragility, depicted by Israeli poets who’s words portray such paralyzing situations.

JFI: How did you prepare with Roni before shooting her first trip to the Tzafit river canyon?

AS: Roni and I met several times, both alone and with her family. It was important to me that we get to know each other so she would feel comfortable undergoing such a delicate process with me. The idea that the film could raise awareness of the disaster and to the secondary circles of trauma gave her the strength to embark on this journey. We were a small crew that allowed Roni to proceed at her own pace, with minimal interference and disruptions. At any moment she wanted to stop and talk, we ensured that it was okay with her for it to be filmed as well. I wanted her to have a positive and collaborative experience throughout the filming process, starting from assisting with preparations all the way to involvement in the post-production.

JFI: Can you talk about the literary and poetic elements of the film?

AS: Rachel, Tchernichovsky, Bialik, and others are esteemed and important Hebrew poets whose works every Israeli student learns. In the film, the entire cinematic language was built around and inspired by the poems. We searched for unique shooting angles combined with kinetic typography that would give the words visual value. We placed great emphasis on the choice of when a word enters, how it dissolves, what its color is, and how it resonates repeatedly in Roni’s mind. The music, composed mostly of elements of water and hollow pipes, creates rhythmic beats that build the emotion evolving from poem to poem. When Roni reaches the physical location in the river where the flood occurred, there’s also a flood of words in her consciousness. In poetry, there are so many layers to the text, and we really tried to let that sink in for the viewer, to feel the magnitude of the disaster from a different perspective.

About the Filmmaker: Amit Shamir is a film writer and director, with 6 short films under her belt. Her last film, RED , was screened in esteemed festivals around the world, earning her accolades and awards. These days Amit is working on her debut feature film, guiding writers and holding empowerment workshops using films.

About JFI Online Shorts: 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

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