Moviegoers who were moved by the surrealism and symbolism in Shira Geffen’s 2007 film “Jellyfish” (Meduzot in Hebrew) will be pleased to know that her equally fantastical new film, “Self Made,” debuts at Critics Week at the Cannes Film Festival this month.
“Self Made” tells the story of two women — one Israeli and one Palestinian — who become trapped within one another’s worlds and find themselves living on the opposite side of the security fence from the one they usually live on. Michal (Sarah Adler), a famous Israeli artist in Jerusalem, falls off her bed one morning and loses her memory. She complains to the furniture company that made her bed, leading to the dismissal of Palestinian factory worker Nadine (Samira Saraya). Later, the two women fatefully meet at a border checkpoint, where, due to a soldier’s error, Michal is sent to a Palestinian refugee camp and Nadine to Michal’s home in Jerusalem.
“The swap leads them to discover their hidden desires, inaccessible in their previous lives,” states the film’s promotional material.
Geffen recently explained to Variety why it took her five years to make “Self Made” despite the success of her previous film (“Jellyfish” won the Camera d’Or and was an official selection at several festivals including the Toronto International Film Festival and the Telluride Film Festival).
The hardest part was finding financial backers. “The challenge I faced was the fantastic element of the story, because when people read the script it is hard for them to imagine that following the switch of the characters nobody notices that it is a different person,” she said.
Ultimately, producers David Mandil of MoviePlus Productions and Moshe Edery and Leon Edery of United King Films, understanding Geffen’s vision, came on board. They grasped the director’s desire to challenge audiences.
“The film is actually about identity, and I touch it in a different way, I think. It is like a collage — a lot of parts — and you need imagination and courage to support it,” Geffen explained.
Whereas Geffen (who is the daughter of Israeli author, poet and playwright Yehonatan Geffen) shared the directing credit for “Jellyfish” with her husband, author Etgar Keret, she had full creative control with this new film.
“Self Made” premieres on May 16 and will be distributed by Westend Films.
This story "Switched Identities in Israeli Film at Cannes" was written by Renee Ghert-Zand.