Early one morning, Naftali (48, married plus two, actor & filmmaker) hires a Palestinian worker named Fahed to renovate the studio outside his home in a quiet village in central Israel. That same morning a girl in the village is attacked and the suspicions fall on Fahed. Naftali tries to defend Fahed (and his renovations) but finds it difficult to deal with the pressure around him. Within twenty-four hours his life begins to spin out of control.
The situation Naftali faces is full of tension, stressful moments, a feeling that something bad is about to happen but there is also a lot of humor in it. It is also very realistic in its depiction of Israeli reality , the film looks Israeli reality 'strait in the Eye', as such it wishes to provoke thought and sink in. Yet as much as it is Israeli it is also very allegorical and universal in what it conveys about human nature.
In his directors' statement, Tzahi Grad writes:
Israeli – Jews have an inherent strong existential Anxiety of "Arabs". We do not tend to talk about it, but one must talk to overcome fear and anxiety. Or, perhaps we feel comfortable with this anxiety? Maybe this is our excuse? And maybe we have just gotten used and fallen in love with the Victim standpoint.
The film grew out of the sensation that our fear of Arabs is much bigger thaמ what it seems (the outcome of a long and bloody conflict and violent information we get from the media). From this fear, racism is nourished. Racism which is natural in its essence (as an instinct even), gets huge encouragement from our fears as Naftali (lead character) says: My Racism is Natural, everyone is Racist. The question is what do you do about it, do you surrender to it or fight it.
From and based on this fear the comic situation at the basis of "The Cousin" was interwoven – the hero, is a liberal that wants to act as a liberal but gets confused as reality gets the better hand … not to pleasant, stressful but full of humor.
As I was working on the drafts and during the direction process I looked for a way to create an authentic world full of "Israeli" moments and moments which echo our fears or our racism and this creates the feeling that something bad is about to happen. Humor came incidentally but already from the writing process. Theoretically, I could have taken the materials to a more sentimental place, but I guess that looking at things from a side angle is inherent in me. And also humor. I love it when viewers talk of moments in the film that touched their hearts but also made them laugh. "
Grad wrote, directed and plays the lead role of Naftali, his two children play besides him and the film was shot in his house.
He writes: "There were allot of doubts but in the end, I decided to go for the option of filming in my house, with my children, my car, my profession and so also playing the main role. Two weeks before shooting I was still having doubts about it and was thinking about calling one of my friends like actor Shai Avivi or Menashe Noy, but in the end I decided to 'go all the way'. It was a burden and felt dangerous but in the end it added quiet a bit to the whole un-conscious process of the film's making. "
World premier "Venice Days" Venice 2017 Intl. film festival.
Best Actor Award to Tzahi Grad and Fedeora Award for artistic achievement – 2017 Haifa Intl. Film Festival. Recently screened at the Intl. Tokyo Film Festival and Intl. Warsaw Film Festival.
Produced by: Ehud Bleiberg, Tzahi Grad
With: Tzahi Grad, Osnat Fishman, Ala Dakka
D.O.P: Eitan Hatuka
Editor: Sari Bisharat