The Jewish Film Institute is proud to present What Doesn’t Kill You as our online short for the month of May 2023.
Jewish Film Institute: Can you talk about the importance of seeing Guillain-Barré Syndrome on screen?
Hannah Janal: During my first year of film school, I was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre, a rare syndrome that causes temporary paralysis. Our professors drilled into us: “write what you know.” This script was cathartic and served as my thesis film project. Seeing GBS on screen was challenging. It’s a hidden illness so we used props to signal a problem; I did the same when using a cane in real life. It was a privilege to bring awareness to this illness.
JFI: Can you speak to how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is portrayed in this film?
HJ: I lived in Israel prior to film school and have experienced many conflicts and wars there. I always marvel at the resilience of Israelis and their humor to boot. It was important for me to show this as I lived it. The cynical nationalism that unifies us in Tel Aviv is very real and our best coping mechanism.
JFI: How were the relationship dynamics between Lily and Yuval developed?
HJ: Yuval is the cousin I wish I had, and serves as the antithesis to Lily and her funk. Since filming, actress Nelly Tagar has stepped into this role in real life and we now call each other family. So I guess I manifested this!
JFI: What was the biggest challenge making the film?
HJ: Missiles were falling as I wrote and revised the script. We would not have been able to shoot during the war in accordance with Columbia film school’s insurance policy. Everyone was on hold waiting to see if and when the fighting would stop, and we were working against an academic deadline. I was confident the conflict would settle in time and it did, though it was down to the wire. Once we got the go-ahead (as dictated by the US State Department), director Darya Zhuk flew to Israel followed by our lead actress Alexandra Roxo.
JFI: Anything else you’d like to share with the JFI audience?
HJ: I am continuing to develop content in Israel — film and tv — and am always looking for collaborators. Please reach out if this material resonates with you.
About the Filmmakers:
Raised in Minsk, What Doesn’t Kill You director Darya Zhuk went to Harvard undergrad, received her MFA in film directing from Columbia and now lives in Brooklyn. She most recently directed an original episode of LITTLE AMERICA for Apple+ based on her own immigration experience from Belarus.
What Doesn’t Kill You Writer/Producer Hannah Janal is a filmmaker and entrepreneur, born and raised in New York City. She splits her time between New York, Los Angeles and Tel Aviv. She has a BA from Bard College and MFA from Columbia University. Her film projects have screened at the Atlanta, Berlin, Cleveland, LA, Slamdance, Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, and Woodstock Film Festivals among others.
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.