17th ÉCU
The European Independent Film Festival 2022 

8th - 10th April 2022 
Interview

Ori Birger
Night Stroll 
Section: Student Film 
ecufilmfestival.com

Alon, a teenager from a small town, accompanies his mother to see a modern dance show in the big city, Tel Aviv. There he witnesses for the first time a great work of art. The show moves him deeply and he is fascinated by the lead dancer. After the show Alon is in a turbulence of emotions which he can't ignore. On an impulse, he sneaks away from his mother and goes off into the backstage, looking for the dancer. Finally he meets him, and the two sets off to a voyage into the dark unknown night.

Hey Ori, thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been holding up during these very strange times?

 

Thank you for this interview! These are strange and hard times, first Covid-19, and now the war in Ukraine. It feels like we are moving from one disaster to another. So it is good to talk to you here about art and cinema, to take a moment and fill the heart with positive subjects. even-though it is not easy in these days.

 

Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration or opportunities?


Actually, yes. When I look back at the last 2 years with covid-19, they were very hard years, took a lot of adjustments from everybody, and I think especially from us, filmmakers and artists. But eventually for me it was quiet positive, gave me time to reflect more deeply on new projects, observe the new reality. Eventually, I wrote and directed A new short film during this time, "Lot's Wife", which will be ready very soon. So overall it was rather an exciting time.

 

Congratulations on having Night Stroll, which is also your diploma film, part of the 17th ÉCU Film Festival, what does it mean to you to be screening your film in Paris?

I'm very much excited to screen the film in Paris and to participate In the ECU Film Festival.


As an Israeli filmmaker, I grew up knowing Paris as the great city of cinema and art. I recognise so many parts of the city from movies that I love. So it is a great honour to screen my film in this beautiful place, with all the historic connotation of it. Looking forward to it.

 

Night Stroll won Best Student Film at the 37th International Haifa Film Festival, did you imagine you would get this type of reaction to your film?


To be honest – No. I really didn't expect that. "Night Stroll" is my first short fiction film, and I always felt a little insecure while making it. I felt like it is a strange film that people will not relate too. The characters rarely speak, one can almost call this film A 'silent film', there is a lot of emphasis on the gaze of the main character, portrayed by Yankalle Filtser, on the world. For me it was the "Intuitive" way of doing cinema, but I really did not think that people will relate to it in such a strong way.

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Can you tell me how Night Stroll, came about, what was the inspiration behind this film and what was the message you wanted to convey with it?

Well, to start with I would say that "Night Stroll" is partially an autobiographical film.

I grew up in Haifa, A small city in the north region of Israel and as a kid I used to go with my mother a lot to the big city, Tel-Aviv, to see modern dance shows and concerts. Those drives, alongside my mother, are very strong memories for me, that in ways really shaped my personality. I would look outside of the car into this beautifully scary world with great passion, my mind would drift away into fantasies of very exciting life. Fantasies that were far away from my real life. I wanted to talk about these feelings in the film, about the yearning to a different form of life. I also wanted to talk about how the encounter with art, in this case – modern dance - can inspire and ignite a whole inner world of experience.

When working on a film like Night Stroll do you allow yourself much flexibility with your screenplay once you start filming or do you like to stick to what you’ve planned to shoot?


In short – No. Regarding the dialogues, I can allow freedom to change the lines, usually I'm flexible about this. But regarding the shooting script, me and my cinematographer, May Abadi Grebler, came to the set extremely prepared, and we usually went along with our plans. Because the characters rarely talk, I Believed that the most important thing in this film was to be very precise with the cinematography. I think that in this film's case, most of the communication of the story and the feelings to the audience is through the Images. So we worked very hard for this to happened.

 

What has been the biggest challenge you've faced bringing Night Stroll, to life and looking back is there anything you would have done differently on this film?

The biggest challenge was to produce and film the modern dance scene. Me and the producer, Gilly Zolty, really had a hard time figuring this out. In a way, this kid watching the show is the inciting incident of the film, this is what changes him and makes him go out to this journey into the night.

So we needed the show to be of very high quality of choreography and dance, in order to feel this impact on his character. We tried approaching big dance companies, but as unknown indie filmmakers this didn’t work out. On top of this – we needed one of our actors, Henry David, to be part of this dance and to dance beautifully. It was a big puzzle to solve and eventually, Ido Gidron choreographed a whole new part especially for the film and taught our actor to dance!

 

Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?

Yes. Since I was a child films moved me very deeply and I knew that I would have to try and take a part in this magic.

 

How has your background as an editor helped in your filmmaking journey and how has your style and approach to your films evolved since your debut short film?

When things go wrong on set, editing skills can be extremely helpful in figuring out solutions. Actually, already while writing the script this helps to feel which parts will eventually be cut off. Since "Night Stroll" I think that my passion went towards making films that are a little less ambiguous in their form. That the audience can relate to a bit faster. In my new short film I tried to be more close to the main character, in the dialogues and in the cinematography.

 

Do you think filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the stories they want to tell?

I think filmmakers should follow their heart and artistic desires. I believe that as a by-product of this, if we will be sincere and passionate, we will all eventually push the boundaries of our stories and also of our societies.

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"Fantasies that were far away from my real life. I wanted to talk about these feelings in the film, about the yearning to a different form of life."

For anyone out there thinking about getting into filmmaking do you have any tips or advice you would offer them? 

I would tell them to prepare for a very long journey. That the biggest mission, I believe, is to stay true to yourself along the way. Be very resilient to failures. Work with friends who you trust and love. Generally, surround yourself as much as possible with good people that will help push you forwards and won't bring you down.

 

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Night Stroll?

I hope people will have a chance to contemplate on their lives, their passions and fantasies. I hope they will leave the theatre inspired and see more clearly the beauty in our world.