Ariana: I’m Arianna Cohen-Halberstam I’m the Artistic Director of Boston Jewish Film and the Boston Israeli Film Festival. I’m so pleased to have with me here today Nitza Shaul who you recognize from just a few moments ago who played Tammy in Love and Suspenders and Jorge Weller who is the director of the film. Thank you both for being here. Nitza: Thank you for having us. Ariana: This is I mean this is a delight of a film. I think we’ve all been stuck at home and watching this film just I think brings so much joy into our homes so I’m really glad to be able to show it as part of the festival and I wanted to start by asking you Jorge where you came up with the idea for the movie because it follows many of the tropes obviously of a rom-com with the ending with the wedding and the beginning with the meet cute but obviously it looks a little different than what we’re usually seeing in Hollywood movies and because it’s dealing with love in a generation that’s not often given enough attention on screen.
Jorge: Okay first of all I might apologize because my English is a little problematic and Nitza said not, but she is not the it’s not the truth no I apologize I will try to to talk maybe Nitza will help me. I don’t understand exactly the the question. Ariana: Oh, I can repeat it also differently I was saying that there the movie we’ve seen other romantic comedies you know where it ends with a wedding it starts with this meet cute but this movie it looks a little bit different because it’s dealing with the third generation, and I’m wondering where you came up with the idea for the movie.
Jorge: Ah, okay well the a few years ago we made the short film. Elisa Dor the scriptwriter and me work for an organization it’s a Eyshal Joint Israel it’s a big organization in Israel that they make a lot of things with the old people and there is a cinema department we make films trigger films to about the old people and usually we make a drama a 20 minutes drama the the idea is the trigger film and then the people talk about the film the the old people, the families, the world and in this specific case they asked to me to make a a short film a bigger theme about the second marriage at the autumn of life and I I receive a very big research with (speaking Hebrew) investigation, (speaking Hebrew) Nitza: Ken.
Research? Jorge: yes of a 50 page that explain why very serious why the a lot of people afraid are afraid to move to the second marriage at the old because the afraid of a lot of thing that all the things we can see in the movie and and we receive a lot of examples of people that make a second marriage or didn’t make a lot of examples of the screenwriter and me decide to make one story from all the stories but the important thing and about your question is that I asked to my producer that I told him that i think in this specific case maybe we make not a drama but a romantic comedy and he said but romantic comedy is something about youth and we are old people and I said that because the the message the principal message of the film is the there is not an age for love and if the old people I mean to to to be to to make the move to make to make marry to to married so it’s it’s a very optimistic film and very in another way I convinced him that to try to make an romantic comedy with the old people and and I was very very enthusiastic because I think I feel that there is something special and then with the with the actors we made the short film the short film with is was with the same actor Yehuda Barkan that you saw in the movie and another actress very the today she is but she is 92.
So when when we decide to make a a movie from the so we we change the actor and we find an excellent actress that is Nitza, I speak a lot but this this that’s the way we start the the movie too Ariana: And you decided then to make it a feature length instead of just a short because it was such an imaginative a good response. Jorge: From the short we we make we come to the TV and the TV enjoyed and we made a TV series to make 20 20 episodes about the story and then two years ago we decided that it’s a time for a movie a cinema movie and a and and we make a lot of a change from the original idea but because the the the old people especially the old people like very, very much the film because they they feel they feel that there is something very serious in the I mean the message, the message of the film is very serious and very important but the way we, we make the we make is very it’s we consumption to make an entertainment to make the the people will moving and yeah.
Ariana: I mean I think a good comedy also usually has a serious message in it and I wanna I want to ask a little bit about Nitza how you got connected to the project and they’re you know you obviously have a background in music and there’s all these incredible scenes in the film with Shlomo Bar-Aba and which are singing and you’re singing with your granddaughter in the film. So when did you get connected to the project and were those scenes written in for you specifically or how did the music become apart and had how did you get to sing in the movie too? Nitza: It was all there all there right from the beginning and it really moved me because I could see this woman who had so many colors you know and so many ways to express herself and she’s in the film she’s about seven years widow right Jorge? And still she she cannot leave the late husband he’s still in her and I believe that some of it is the music because they were you know a duo and they used to perform together and they had all the wonderful experiences of performing and expressing themselves on and off stage and it’s a different kind of relationship when i know from home it’s completely different when you you work with somebody who is so much part of your life you know there is something that is so deep and goes really to to the very core of your soul and with Shlomo Bar-Aba it was very easy because we were in the same entertainment army group we needed something you know to ignite us poof and Jorge remembers how we met the first time it was incredible, incredible we couldn’t stop singing all the songs that we used to entertain the troops you know and we could remember all the everything even the movement and the choreography so honest and so true you know there was nothing that we had to you know adapt from something that or just to dig into material that it was all there so simple and so fresh but about the relationship of of Tammy and Benno it’s I see some of I have some friends who lost their husbands and I know how difficult it is to to or if it’s good relationship you know if it isn’t I don’t know not saying anything but we’re dealing with comedy right but if it’s good relationship and there’s so much love there and you they don’t want to to leave this wonderful feeling you know and also there is a kind of taboo that you have to be somebody else when you when you turn 60 you know? Oh you have to be serious and and to not to think about love there’s no love and it’s a great lesson to if we talk to the same generation they exactly know what we’re talking about exactly and immediately but also to a younger generation like with the children there our children there and the granddaughter and he really understands it always like that always right there is a special relationship between I don’t know a vivacious grandma who is very much alive and bubbly with the granddaughter which is she’s she really adores her and there it’s so important to show that after all love has no age and we are allowed to you know, I’m saying it as a woman because for men different we know there have extras that I hope that will vanish from this earth and but we women you know are allowed to fall in love again and have the right to do it and have the right to go through a wonderful experience like that without permission from nobody, including the family.
Ariana: Right. I mean I think one of the things that is done so well and that is really interesting to think about in this time when so many people whose parents are over 65 when COVID started were telling their parents what to do and that’s something that you address in the film where Benno says to you, your kids don’t get to tell you what to do. Many people who you know will call their parents and say you need to stay inside and the grandchildren having this different relationship with the parents I think is something that’s probably become increasingly familiar to people over the past few months and thinking of the setting also of the film in this retirement community which obviously we’ve we’ve seen a lot of attention on the isolation in those communities over the past few months was really interesting to get a look inside right now I’m curious did you film in a retirement community? Or what where… Jorge: Yes yes, yes it’s a real place and the extras there are people that live in the in the place yeah Ariana: Oh wow, yeah I mean I also thought the other characters in the retirement community Nitza you were talking about the permission you know this expectation of how you’re one’s supposed to behave over 60 and I love that you created these characters that have crushes and are shy like a school boy, Gershon and Benno’s neighbor it was really it was treating love in a way and and romance and crushes in a way that you don’t often see for an older generation.
Nitza: All right, and it’s just the same you know? Ariana: Of course. Nitza: And it’s wonderful to see in it was so well written by Jorge and Elisa they they really had the sensitivity not to overdo it and to have the right measurement you know just to to touch it in such a delicate and elegant way that gave us, the actors, freedom you know to go a little bit further there and to have some some fun with this crushes you know but, saying something about what you said before… You know my mother she’s in a home like that and a wonderful place too and I couldn’t go there to see her and last week I had to go and help her to get some stuff and now we had the vaccine here, so I was I’m I was okay sort of still they don’t allow it and I entered her apartment and I realized that I haven’t been there for a year. Ariana: Wow. Nitza: Can you imagine this is incredible, incredible and then i thought wow this is really like a separated community and I think that you feel it also in the film that like like a bubble right they have their courses their the gym and the pool well this is a place five star (laughing) place you know and if you compare it to Benno, to Benno’s poor apartment this is heartbreaking isn’t it you see that people live differently at this age and how and to think about them at this time you know with a COVID.
Ariana: And Benno of course said he wouldn’t want to live in a place like that before he sees her apart— Tammy’s apartment. I want to talk a little bit about Benno and particularly Yehuda Barkan who unfortunately passed away in October this year this was his last role is that correct? Jorge: Yes. Ariana: Yeah, he’s obviously has a long career of comedic acting can you talk a little bit about your memories of of acting with him on set? Jorge: Yehuda Barkan, I said that in Israel is very, very famous and you make a lot of films very, very successful films and in my opinion the question is why he is so the people so love him it’s extraordinary actor but it’s something else that and my conclusion is that he is a star but not only because the the common the common way is star because it’s famous, a star the like in the astronomy and the star in astronomy the star is a something that have the the light, inner light and that was I think that Yehuda have something inside a light and the warm so and he saw a good actor with with this energy and the light so people feel something very very special and it’s really wonderful he was a wonderful person and a wonderful actor and we we work from the short film it’s a few years ago then all the TV series and this was the the last film but we have a very, very special relation with a lot of humor because i don’t know if you want if you know but he become religious the last years so I am not religious so we we are very different but we we have a very in common and with a lot of humor and for example when he is he writes the script the first time he he left the script but he told me there is a problem I can see that there is a sex scenes in the script and you know I religious so I please change these things because in a Jewish relation it’s must be a contact I mean it’s forbidden to to contact so I say Yehuda it’s a love story it’s it’s impossible that it’s not a a contact a minimum a kiss or something, it’s not a pornography film it’s just a story love time so he said okay please tell me I was asked my Rabbi and he asked the Rabbi and the Rabbi say give me two days and after two days the Rabbi say I have the solution I found that there is a pasuk a sentence in the Torah that if you make something for a living it’s okay to to make a contact with the woman like a doctor so you are an actor you make the film for a living it’s your so it’s okay you can do.
(All laughing) Ariana: that that’s a convenient pasuk! Nitza: I asked him, what am i allowed to do or not just be honest you know I no offense it’s okay I respect everything and he said I respect you too and it was amazing he said you have to do your part the best you can and I have to do it the best I can and feel free completely free to do whatever you need to do I said okay what about you, you know he found a way he was initiating me he said he used to whisper in my ear, “okay you can kiss me now.
” It was wonderful, really wonderful. That’s you know I started acting with that with Yehuda then as a very, very young actress very, very young kid not kid but you know and we were in two mega, mega cult movies and to to see the change that he went through was really moving you know? Because I could feel that he found his way and he was not preaching he was not trying to say that he is right and nothing like that and he had all the time in the world to listen to people and all he wanted to do is to give and to do some good and he wouldn’t rest until he saw a smile on the saddest - you know - person on the set to investigate and to make everybody happy it’s so incredible and I must say something, you know in his funeral it was stunning to see the rabbis and the free people talking about the same thing right it was just the same it was as if both parties you know you know knew him from the same angle I don’t know many other people who would reach such a high you know high place to to reach it’s incredible, incredible so sad Jorge: I remember a special moment because it’s important to understand that Yehuda when he was a young people he was very very nice all the girls want to be with him.
Nitza: Hot, hot! Jorge: I said and and then he became religious that he was a little fat, and I remember the the first meeting with Yehuda and Nitza that the purpose of the meeting was to check how we feel with the especially about the chemistry, if there is and I remember that we talk and then Nitza go to the restroom and I ask “Yehuda, what do you think, how you feel?” and Yehuda said: “Well it’s it’s incredible it’s, it’s the perfect actress and we have a so good chemistry but there is a problem.
” I asked “What’s the problem?” and he said like a shy, like a shy a boy he said:“You think the people will be will believe that a woman like Nitza will be in love with a man like me?” (laughing) And so when when Nitza came back I opened and I said “Nitza you know Yehuda have a question. “ and Nitza, you can tell the the answer because you you answer very nice, you what you said. You remember? Nitza: I remember I said that he’s a charmer and there’s no of course now and I would fall in love with him immediately first man that’s what I said right? Jorge: Yes.
Ariana: I mean there’s definitely chemistry i mean it’s surprising to learn that he was worried about being shomer negia and not touching you I mean the chemistry on the screen is so apparent and there’s just such a beautiful relationship portrayed there and and we certainly do see that light that you were talking about Jorge and him in this role you just sympathize with him throughout the entire film. Nitza: Wasn’t afraid to expose himself, you know, to be vulnerable and vulnerability on the screen, you know something so unique.
It’s either there or not that’s it. Jorge: You know, Ariana I after the the film when the film finished in the cinema I made a 30, 20 or 30 a private screening especially to old people and usually after the screening we make a conversation. Especially in Israel but it was in Los Angeles in the Israel film festival too. And I think in in every in every meeting at the beginning the people ask important and serious questions but in the before the end there is a woman that I ask the question: “I would like to know what the beauty secret of Nitza.
” Ariana: (laughing) Me too! Me too! (all laughing) Jorge: And I explained that there is a combination special very unusual and special combination of (asks Nitza to translate from Hebrew) Nitza: Genes. Jorge: and the way of life she is very very careful about the what she eat and exercise and I think and I think there are two special things: one is the the positive thinking see the optimism and she take the life very, very easy, very easy.
So the the combination of that this is the formula. (all laughing) > Ariana: it’s not that easy to achieve. Easy going… Nitza: Well Jorge! I can say the same about you that you are such an optimist and such a really, it was such a joy to work with Jorge, you know because he knows exactly what he wants but he gives you freedom and gives you time to to do the scene. There’s no hurry it’s always preparation and discussion and there was a lot of discussion with Yehuda.
I think the two of them sometimes gave me a headache. (laughing) But it was a good one a good one really it was worth it because the results when finally we were doing it I each one of us felt so comfortable with this wonderful direction and and this touch of elegant mixture of South American Israeli combination. You know, it’s very unusual, very unusual and and I love this foreign touch this little thing there that was different and elegant, so elegant I loved it.
Ariana: It’s beautiful. Jorge, you’re from from Argentina originally? Jorge: Yes Ariana: What do you think and Nitza talked about the the South American-ness that you brought into the into the film what is that, what where were you drawing on do you draw on your Argentinian background when you’re directing? Or is it innate? Jorge: Yeah I don’t know I it’s a I you know there is the people in Israel think that all the, for example, all the Brazilian people are all the time laughing and dancing the street (laughing) and it’s true, that there are something and about, the about Argentinian and South America I mean there is something that we, I think we, we have a very, I mean why we are so poor in South America we don’t think about the money or about the the things that they do we think all the time how to enjoy a little more the the life and it’s very important the friendship is a very very important value the friendship and the relationship and maybe this, I because.
I come to Israel in ’78, it’s 40 years so but in maybe there is something yes. I married a Belgian woman so, we are very different, especially I know that she said she said why all the Argentinians are so slowly, slowly and I think well slowly, slowly but we have not so stressed we are not effective we are not Americans but we have less stress.
31:28 - Nitza: So warm, so warm! I identified with it immediately because I have a huge family in Argentina and also people here who came from Argentina so immediately I connected to that and this accent it makes me melt. You remember there was a film a “A Fish called Wanda” where she where you know Cleese used to talk Russian or whatever and I was melting when I hearing Jorge that’s all I needed such a sexy accent. Whoo! Ariana: Well it’s the the values you sort of talk about as Latin American values the emphasis not on money but on family and friendship and are the values that you gave Benno as a character.
He sort of I wonder how much of yourself you see in him he sort of seems to and his he’s obviously he’s very different than Tammy and his he doesn’t have any money because he spent it to save his wife because he’s always writing letters for other people to get money and I think you really get the values that you’re talking about across in him as a character. Do you see yourself in him at all? Jorge: Yes, yes it’s important to to say that the scriptwriter Elisa Dor is from Argentina too.
(all laughing) She is 40 years in Israel but she has wait… Ariana: So the film screened in theaters in Israel where has the movie shown so far and where is it going next? Jorge: The film was in the cinema in Israel cinemas it was very, very good and then is in the TV Israel TV. And now it’s in festivals it is very success in the festivals. We don’t know we don’t know we will we will happen with the film is in the producer and distribution.
But because all the happened with the COVID19 I mean all the the cinemas in the world is very problematic, yeah. But the people the people in Israel they like the film a lot and when my experience in the festival in Los Angeles was wonderful was a very very, very nice. Ariana: That’s a great festival I wish that we could be showing it in an audience you know in a theater with a full audience but it’s one of those films that also as I said really brings, brings a lot of warmth and into your home which is nice in this time.
So yeah. And now Nitza are you working on anything else now? I know you have a thousand different projects from music to…
34:54 - Nitza: So can you imagine from all these thousand projects in one day to go to sees, you know nothing it was such a shock really because I managed to do a few things on TV you know, and to be very active with for my friends and their situations and now I’m working on a TV comedy that is very popular it’s called “A Dear T ” you know like the T on on on the road and it’s it’s a, he is a comedian (indiscernible actors name) very popular so it’s a very nice funny role and I’m starting also a film very interesting film called “Green.
” And it’s the first film of a young filmmaker who’s going through hell now. Just to put it on you know. It’s every day there’s something and one day it’s working one day it’s not working and again all the to go through all this who is who has the vaccine who doesn’t was going to be. It’s impossible, it’s impossible to work like this and we hope that to go we started to go back to to the theaters but again it’s very, very problematic and my husband is a conductor, a classical.
So he started they started again there allowed like 300 people in the hall okay something Ariana: It’s something yeah… Nitza: Yeah yeah and it’s a wonderful time for us because we were stuck together yeah he’s conducting all over the world so he was grounded, so we are working on our on a show of ours you know our show so we are writing and we’re working with the director writers that can see it you know from the outside. I really hope that it would be a chance to to see ourselves, you know, from a different angle and to give some joy to people at the same time and I’m looking forward to it.
Ariana: It sounds like you said you went from having a thousand projects to nothing but it sounds like you’ve been very busy still. Nitza: Ah, still no well I’m used to doing those I didn’t have time to breathe. really working 24⁄7 really. Two shows, three shows in a day and film and doing all that you know that’s how we work here in Israel it’s a bit crazy. So it was interesting not to do it, and i thought that I would you know start doing things be creative right and write new shows as I do you know writing maybe my 12th book… nothing, nothing I just sat there doing nothing. I couldn’t there was no way and as Jorge has said I’m an optimistic girl but I couldn’t do it and I understood that there’s no point to fight. Sometimes you have to accept the situation and wait and observe and and I was very tuned to surround, you know. Normally I was so much within myself my what i’m doing not that I didn’t care but it was interesting to be all the time to look around and to see what’s happening and it’s very rough.
My daughter, lives one of my daughter she lives in London so I can’t see her for nine months or more than that, and it’s heartbreaking you know so difficult, but I think it’s improving and we really have to be optimistic there’s no other way.
39:21 - Ariana: Well now that you’re vaccinated I think we’re sort of moving past the initial shock which might have you know stilted some creativity and getting back out into the world and getting to see the people that we love. I think hopefully we’ll get to see the projects you’ve been working on soon. Jorge were you working on projects during this time are you back to filming? Jorge: Yeah my next project is a co-production with Argentina it’s a something different.
It’s a, it’s a comedy dramatic comedy about an Argentinian in Israel. A lot of problems (laughing) no, family problems and the one day it’s like like the joker about the rabbit that you have a lot of problem and then another so he had a lot of problems and one day come from Argentina the family he must take take care for them doesn’t matter it’s a very it’s a personal I mean it starts from a personal. We work with the same screenwriters and she’s from Argentina and we have a co-productions of the film will be with the Israeli and Argentinian actors it’s the first time I do that is the first time that there will be a co-production with between Israel and Argentina.
Ariana: Oh wow. Jorge: And yes and I I’m very excited about the this film, we are the one year the fund for one year the Israeli (film) fund doesn’t work so we we we wait all the time that the situation will be and and even it’s impossible to travel now from Israel so I believe that in a few months the situation we it will be possible to to make the movie. Ariana: Because the actors from Argentina I’m sure can’t come to Israel either right now.
Jorge: no no no because theater I mean the the actors in Israel at this moment it’s impossible to to go out or or to country. So we must the situation be normal that they can and in Argentina there is a lot of problem about the (speaking Hebrew asks Nitza for translation) Nitza: vaccinations. Jorge: Yes, so if one of the people in the festival are interested in investing in a good film this is a good opportunity. Ariana: Well let me know and and and we’ll get you in touch but I’m looking whenever it’s complete it sounds like it would be a really fun film for the festival as well, so I look forward to seeing it.
Well thank you both so much, thank you Nitza, thank you Jorge, for talking to me and for bringing this film to our festival I think all of the things you were just talking about about the isolation this film highlights and deals with with such a comedic and loving and exploratory tone so I’m really glad to get to share it with our audience as part of this festival so thank you. Nitza: Thank you. Jorge: Thank you Nitza: thank you very much Ariana: Have a good evening Jorge: I hope the next year we can meet in the festival in Boston.
Ariana: Me too! Yes well I hope so too we would love to bring you here and and if not in Israel because I miss going. I usually go for the Jerusalem film festival and this year I couldn’t and but next year let’s let’s bring you to Boston. Maybe Nitza, you and your husband can come with the orchestra like I would love to just have people in a theater enjoying art again together so well Nitza: You have a fantastic orchestra there Ariana: Yeah we do we’re very lucky we get yeah nothing’s open here the vaccinations are a lot slower here than Israel as I’m sure you know Boston they just opened up to over 65 last week Nitza: Really? Ariana: So yeah.
44:02 - Nitza: Wow, let’s see so also theaters and entertainment are all closed Ariana: Restaurants are open, but they shouldn’t be. Schools are not open like in Boston and it’s different New York restaurants are open on the outside I think so every city is different. We’re looking at Israel and wishing we were there in terms of vaccinations yeah. Nitza: Yeah hope that you get it soon Really. Ariana: Well stay safe and and be healthy. Nitza: You too.
Jorge: Thank you very much. Ariana: Thank you, bye. Nitza: Bye, Bye. .