AS children, they may have found it difficult to understand why their family was not functioning. Twenty years later when they become parents themselves, they start to make sense of the role a male figurehead plays in a family triumvirate of father, mother and a child.
And they also discover PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, from which they assume the whole country has been suffering from since the 1960s when Israel was in a continuous state of war.
“Beneath the Silence” is the debut feature film by Israeli filmmaking duo Erez Mizrahi and Sahar Shavit.
Set in 1973, a time when PTSD was not recognized as a medical condition, Daphna, the wife, struggles to get help from the military in order to maintain her husband, Menashe’s last bits of sanity, while their 10 year-old son, Shlomi, tries to understand what happened to his father and why he is different.
“The film is not autobiographical, but a very personal work that touches the scars of our childhood experiences,” says director Mizrahi, who was recently in the city for the Shanghai International Film Festival, with his small crew that includes Adva Bole, who came home with the Best Actress award for her performance in the film.
“Our goal is to create a film depicting the disintegration of the family unit. However, it is important to clarify that there is no blame in these situations … sometimes in life, something happens and you are affected by it,” adds co-director Shavit.
Starting with a small budget for a video feed on PTSD soldiers some eight years ago, Mizrahi, Shavit and cinematographer Tomer Moneta decided to make it into a feature film so as to open up the subject so people would talk about the condition.
The three of them studied film and television at Sapir College, have directed and written several short films together. Since 2008, they have been working and creating work for the Israeli television industry.
“In the process, we become a researcher or a detective with each script we write,” says Mizrahi. “It helps us to go back to the time in the 1960s and 1970s. We talked with so many people about this period and we read a lot of books about PTSD. It was challenging, because it was not easy to ask people to talk about a subject they don’t want to talk about.”
Shavit recalls one particular moment when an old man in his seventies finally opened up to them personally. He spoke about things he’d never talked about to anyone, not even to his own children.
“I think we took a lot from him in Menashe, such as why he can’t communicate with his family, why he would spend days driving in his red track for long hours, and why he wants to die all the time … He opens a window into his soul and lets us see what he felt all these years,” says Shavit.
“The army was very big in Israel. For the past generation, it was like a taboo to talk about the negative side of the war. People felt ashamed to admit that they suffered from war, because it didn’t fit into the hero character that the army tried to establish,” explains cinematographer Moneta.
Since it was completed last year, they have taken the movie to the world film festivals for international competition, in Montreal, Sofia, Tallinn and Hamburg. It is also the first time that they have been in Shanghai to take part in the Shanghai International Film Festival.
“It’s a very Israeli film about Israeli families. But on the other hand we want it to be a universal film. There are soldiers everywhere around the world. Every soldier comes back with a wound or a scar. The message is even if you win, you lose. Nobody can win in a war,” says Shavit.
The movie “Beneath the Silence” will be officially released in October in Israel after the Yom Kipur War celebration, which is a public holiday in memory of the 1973 war.