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Ofir Raul Graizer • Director

"A story about people who don't want to be defined by external identities"

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- KARLOVY VARY 2017: We caught up with Israeli-born, Berlin-based writer-director Ofir Raul Grazier, who is in the International Competition with his first feature film, The Cakemaker

Ofir Raul Graizer • Director

Israeli-born, Berlin-based writer-director Ofir Raul Grazier's first feature film, The Cakemaker [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Ofir Raul Graizer
film profile
]
, has just screened in Karlovy Vary's International Competition. Cineuropa caught up with the filmmaker at the event.

Cineuropa: The Cakemaker is an intimate story with a strong political message. Where did you start from when you were conceiving the script?
Ofir Raul Graizer:
The beginning of an idea for a movie for me usually comes from a personal anger or frustration about an issue that is political, religious or social - things that are bigger than the common person. The Cakemaker for me was a very personal story about common people in a reality where the political aspect is not affecting them directly in what they do every day, but is present and eventually does affect them, and not in the terms of what I would call "a political situation". This is something that I know from my own experience: my father is religious, my mother is secular, so I grew up in between these two identities, and they are present in my life to this day. I didn't want this to be at the forefront, because ultimately, what is important is the personal, intimate tragedy of these three people.

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This whole religious and political reality is an essential thing in life - to be Jewish or secular in Jerusalem or to be a German in Israel, to be gay, to be gay in a religious family… I always wanted to tell a story about people who don't want to be defined by political, sexual or national identities. They want to say, "I don't care about this identity; I am who I am. I want to love someone because I need to be close to that person, and not because I'm homosexual or heterosexual." 

How did you pick the actors?
I knew already six years ago that I wanted to work with the Israeli actors, Sarah Adler, Zohar Strauss and Sandra Sade; they are well known in Israel. I had their photos on my desktop as inspiration. It took almost eight years to complete the film, and when they agreed to play in the movie, it was like a dream come true. As for the role of Thomas, I was looking for an actor for a very long time. I saw at least 100 showreels, and I narrowed it down to two people, but neither felt right. And then, online, I randomly ran into this guy, Tim Kalkhof, and I did two auditions with him and decided, "That's it." I had a good feeling about him; it was clear he had a lot of talent. He is not a big star, but I hope he will be. He really understood me. 

How did you structure the film?
I wanted to start the film with a glimpse into the romance of two men in Berlin, but without exposing too much - not to show immediately that it is love, but that there is a strong sexual attraction. And then I wanted to cut it, to kill the guy, and through Thomas' point of view to slowly start to talk about Anat, to turn the film partly into her journey, but also to change the way Thomas experiences the relationship with his lover. And then, after Thomas and Anat make love in the kitchen, to give a whole new aspect to the relationship between two men, with this long flashback about how in love the two men were, and provide more details about Thomas' background. 

The segments set in Berlin and Jerusalem are very different stylistically and emotionally. How did you build this dynamic?
When Thomas comes to Jerusalem, he comes from a very sad, melancholic place. But when he comes into Anat's life, and she gives him this chance, he finds a place and a family where he is welcomed, and he can be creative and make his cakes. It is an alternative to the cold, "German", structured life. Also, the way we shot the film in Germany was much more structured, and we used a different camera and lens. In Jerusalem, it was much more wild and crazy; we shot in the farmer's market and in small streets, running around with cameras…

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