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VENICE 2017 Competition

Samuel Maoz • Director

“The foxtrot is the dance of a man with his fate”


- VENICE 2017: Cineuropa spoke to Israeli director Samuel Maoz about the origins and themes of his new effort, Foxtrot

Samuel Maoz  • Director
(© La Biennale di Venezia - foto ASAC)

Eight years after he set his autobiographical, Golden Lion-winning Lebanon [+see also:
film review
film profile
 entirely within the confines of a tank, Samuel Maoz has directed another claustrophobic, tense film that is playing in competition at the Venice Film Festival. Split into three parts, Foxtrot [+see also:
film review
interview: Samuel Maoz
film profile
shines the spotlight on a family struck by tragedy in order to make a piercing examination of the effects of collective trauma. The Match Factory is handling sales for this German-French-Israeli co-production.

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Cineuropa: The film starts with the announcement of the death of a child. What was the seed of this tale?
Samuel Maoz: The idea comes from an incident that happened to me a long time ago. Every day, my eldest daughter would wake up late for school, and every day she would then ask me to call a taxi for her, and it started to cost us quite a bit of money. It seemed to me like it was affecting her education, so one morning I refused to get her a taxi and told her to take a bus like everyone else. There was a bit of an argument, but she needed to learn the hard way to wake up on time. Her bus was line 5. About half an hour after she left, I heard that a terrorist had blown up a line 5 bus, and dozens of people had been killed. I tried to call her, but of course the telecoms service had stopped working because of the sheer volume of calls. So I went through the worst hour of my life. It was worse than all my time at war put together. An hour later, she returned home; she had just missed the bus that exploded.

Why did you decide to blend this story with one about military service?
Because I wanted the story to be more complex.

Why did you want to make a film that was told in three episodes, each with different styles, and where the cinematography is different in each one?
When I started the project, I told myself that the first sequence should shock and shake, the second should hypnotise, and the third should be moving. There are other reasons, of course: each sequence reflects the character leading that sequence. The first sequence reflects the character of the dad, Michael; it is a sharp, cold, thick, symmetrical sequence, made up of long and accurate shots. The third sequence is more strongly related to the mother; it uses blues, and is soft and warm. Jonathan's sequence, the middle one, floats a few inches above the ground like the inner world of an artist caught up in dreams. The whole film is a philosophical puzzle, if I can throw such a dirty word in the air.

There are so many dances you could have chosen from: why did you opt for the foxtrot?
I would say that the foxtrot is the dance of a man with his fate. It is the kind of dance where there are many variations, but they all end up at the same starting point, so it sounds to me like a typical dance with fate – no matter what, you end up in the same position.

The film also gives the impression that the Holocaust was both the beginning and the end of history for these characters, in a way. Is that something you felt while making it?
Yes, in a way, because the film deals with two generations, and whether they are the second generation of Holocaust survivors or the third generation, they all experience trauma while performing military service, and it looks like an endless traumatic situation. You could say that maybe part of it was forced upon us, but the second part could have been avoided. I think that the notion of the Holocaust being passed from generation to generation is a symbol of the Holocaust memory.

Why did it take you eight years to make another film after Lebanon won the Golden Lion at Venice?
It took me three years, because I was, and am, also doing other things. I'm writing a book, I'm painting, I'm raising my kids, I'm trying to do more than one thing. So I don’t just spend my time making films.

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