Inbar Horesh’s short film Birth Right is an important film that focuses on Jewish Identity. A film which won the Oscar-qualifying award at the 2020 Palm Springs ShortFest along with the 2020 Moulin d’Ande Award at Cinemed: Montpellier International Festival of Mediterranean Cinema, we spoke to Inbar on the importance of her film, her success, and her career.
Were you afraid of your film receiving backlash in Israel considering you introduced a topic rarely discussed in Israeli cinema?
This indeed was a concern of mine from the very beginning of writing. While working on the script I found that most Israelis are not aware that the state of Israel actively encourages immigration of non-jews to what is considered a Jewish state. I thought that mirroring this phenomenon and its complexity could open a new way of thinking about the Israeli identity and its limits. I put a lot of thinking about how to present this critical topic. I choose to focus on the process the protagonist undergoes in order to connect to the viewers through their feelings, creating a dialog that is not based on Antagonism.
You plan to expand the short into a full-length film? Are you planning to continue Natasha’s journey? If so how?
I am working now on a feature-length film of “Birth Right”, which takes place in a similar setting. In the feature, the group tours israel from north to south in a single week. Natasha’s characters is based on similar emotional elements, but she is younger, and along with the group search for their jewish national identity she matures sexually and discovers herself as a woman.
Are most of the characters mentioned in the short set to make a return in the full length (ie: the soldiers)? If so, will you go into depth into the personalities of the two girls who accompanied Natasha or will they remain the resident “mean girls?”
Ilya’s character will be present, going into much more detail on his personal journey. The girls group will be bigger. Asya’s character will have her own storyline, and with the rest of the boys and girls in the group a complex mosaic of human experiences and points of view will be portrayed.
Your previous film The Visit gained mass popularity? How did you cope with the success while still in school?
At Minshar, where I studied filmmaking, the general approach is not to interrupt the students in their work. So our process of learning is very independent. When I finished shooting my graduation film “The Visit” I showed a cut to two of my favorite teachers that were both very displeased and one even said: “this is not cinema!”. I was devastated. I had been working on this film so hard for so long and I felt it would determine my entire future, and now, at the end of the process, they are telling me that I was actually doing everything wrong. I was so disappointed with myself and my film that I couldn’t even look at the screen during our graduation night screening and didn’t believe any compliment given to me. Just a couple of weeks later I received an email from Cannes Film Festival telling me that The Visit was selected for the Cinefondation competition. Of course, I was thrilled. I got to walk on the red carpet at the age of 25 and my film had a fabulous festival round. This experience made me realize that in arts you can’t win them all. You’ll always have some that appreciate your work and some who don’t and the most important thing is to commit to ourselves.
Prior to your directing debut, your main focus was human rights advocacy. What made the experience the most rewarding for you?
The most rewarding part of being an activist was to expand myself as a human. I got to know many people, many stories, and many different layers of my reality. The rewarding part was getting to know many inspiring people from many different circles, some of them our my closest friends till today.
Why make the career change from advocate to director?
I was always very into arts as a child but after I finished high school I became very involved in human rights activism. As the situation in Israel became very disheartening, I wanted to find a way to mirror my reality and shed light on important issues. So very naturally I was drawn to cinema.
What experience do you have with the Birth Right organization?
I joined a Birthright-Israel trip as an escort while researching for the film and interviewed many past participants.
What made you want to explore a career in teaching alongside your film career? How do you balance the two?
Teaching is somehow very natural for me. I guess because it demands constant learning. I find myself asking the most basic questions about cinema and filmmaking, again, every school year. I love supporting the creative processes of others and feel that it develops my own. The balance can be difficult in moments of production and shooting, but luckily for me, the college where I work is aware and flexible enough to allow teachers like me to disappear for some weeks while making a film.