Working Woman director Michal Aviad joined Solzy at the Movies to discuss the Israeli film ahead of the international premiere at TIFF.
Congrats on Working Woman holding its International Premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Films such as this one couldn’t be more relevant given everything in the news over the last year. How much did the rise of the #MeToo movement help in getting the film completed?
Michal Aviad: #Metoo for me is a long awaited outcry to stop sexual harassment at the work place and elsewhere. It’s a culmination of the work done for many years by feminists, including myself, to stop the phenomena. We wrote the script for the film in 2012, but it wasn’t until 2016 that we were able to secure funding for the film. After pre-production, we shot the film during last October –November. The news about the #MeToo movement came during shooting, and was a wonderful recognition for all of us. It was an encouraging tailwind. But WORKING WOMAN is not a “#MeToo” scenario, where women go public exposing their offenders. My film tells the story of many women who remain publicly and often privately silent. It’s a film about one of so many transparent women who work as chambermaids or secretaries and must secure a job to financially support their families. In spite of #MeToo, most stories of sexual harassment still remain silent. I hope WORKING WOMAN will help to deepen and widen our understanding of the complexity of sexual harassment.
In addition to the sexual harassment storyline, there’s also the fact that Orna and Ofer are parents of three children yet they struggle to get by. Is this a problem in Israel?
Michal Aviad: In Israel, the gap between the rich and the poor widens every year. Government policies brought a lot of the middle class and the lower middle class to the borders of poverty. Orna and Ofer represent many similar young Israeli families. They work hard and hope to climb the economic ladder, but it’s a constant struggle. In WORKING WOMAN I wanted to show how sexual harassment at work is related to the nuances of the gap of powers, between the employer and the employee, including the economic gap between them.
You’ve made several documentaries and two narrative features. How do you approach them differently?
Michal Aviad: For me, making documentary films and writing/directing narrative features exist on the same continuum. In both genres I make films within the tradition of humanist-realist films. My films come from ideas I need to explore, but turn into stories I develop, through research and writing. In documentaries I direct people playing themselves, and in fiction I direct actors. I don’t have different directing techniques, in both genres I’m the same Michal and I work through relationships with the actors or participants and the crew. What I didn’t know before venturing into narrative features I learned while making films. In any case, it’s a profession in which you never stop learning. I’m drawn to tell in narrative features what I cannot tell in documentaries. For example, only in a narrative feature can you show step-by-step how sexual harassment begins and how it develops.
With the Jewish holiday marathon right around the corner, do you have any favorite holiday traditions or foods that you love to eat at this time of year?
Michal Aviad: I love my mother’s and my grandmother’s Rosh Hashana soup with gnocchi, made in our Jewish Italian tradition.
Thank you for your time, congrats on the film, and Shanah Tovah!
Michal Aviad: Thank you and Shana Tova.