The Social Network
Israeli director Dan Chyutin’s movies reflect emotions and insecurities of people who suffered the aftermath of the Holocaust. He tells S Mallik how he acquired intimate familiarity with violence through wars and human bombings
Your movies are about feelings like solitude and guilt which turn into desperation. Tell us about choosing the subjects of your films.
For me solitude was an essential part of my being, not only because I was an only child but because I, like many others, suffered the atomising effects of the Holocaust and subsequent conflicts. These effects lie in the background of the films in question, which are all on the possibility of creating intimacy over and against an increasingly alienating social setting.
One of your movies, Holiday, reflects the fate of the culture where aggression became a part of everyday life. Why did you feel the need to portray that?
As a child and adult I acquired intimate familiarity with violence through wars and human bombings. It would have been remiss, then, not to include this presence in my films. But for me violence is of less interest in its own right. It is the proper platform through which I reflect on human connectability.
A lot of your research also focusses on the intersection between religion and film. How do you deal with these two subjects in your cinema?
Israeli cinema has traditionally avoided a direct address of Judaism because of its allegiances to the largely secular ethos of Zionism. In recent years, however, Israeli films have taken more interest in Judaism yet not form the position of wholehearted acceptance.
You are also a published scholar and have taught at Pittsburgh University. How aware is the world of Israeli culture and tradition?
I think the world is very aware of Israeli politics through the lens of news coverage of the conflict. Other facets of Israeli culture are less known, but are gaining recognition worldwide, in no small part due to a rise in the profile of Israeli cinema. I believe this turn is allowing global audiences to construct a more multidimensional image of Israeli society in their imagination.
Does the government provide support to cinema and research?
Not as much as we would expect but the national film funds do support Israeli film-making to some extent. There are national grants for cinematic research, too.
Apart from a filmmaker, you are also an avid photographer. How do you juggle between the two?
Juggling interests is how I get to understand what interests me at a particular moment and prevents me for needlessly sticking to a course that doesn’t work out. But my interests are still largely linked by a common ground so it’s not so much of a dispersion of interest.
Tell us about your masterclass in India. Have you been here before?
I have never been to India before so thankfully the Embassy allowed me to have this experience of giving workshops in the country’s leading schools. My workshops used the tools of film scholarship to make movies accessible as resources for students in thinking about their own film-making. And these students were very much up for the task of learning, so I enjoyed the sessions very much!
Have you seen Indian films?
I have not seen many Indian films but did have the distinct pleasure of teaching Jai Santoshi Maa in a class of mine about spiritual film aesthetics. I found it really interesting as an example of darshan, as well as of the use of spectacular stylistics in the context of an oral culture.
Your last movie Watching came in 2006. Will you be directing a movie soon?
I have no immediate plans but one can only hope.
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