Intrigue of The Human Conditionby Brie Stimson January 29, 2018
Curiosity. That has drawn Israeli documentary filmmaker David Ofek to all of his projects over the last two decades. With the efforts of the Murray Galinson San Diego-Israel Initiative, the director has been teaching screenwriting since last fall as a Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artist at San Diego State University.
He was also in town for the San Diego premiere of his documentary “In Between” at the JCC Film Festival in November and three other screenings at Leichtag’s Moishe House, UCLA and UC San Marcos.
“Curiosity … is what I also try to teach my students – to be curious – and to have a question that’s really interesting. Like in the couple in ‘In Between’ and will they stay together or how can they stay together and in ‘No. 17,’ of course, how come nobody came to identify this body,” Ofek told me. We spoke over the phone one morning before his flight back to Israel.
“I got an offer from Israel to come to San Diego and teach screenwriting and of course I was very, very happy and very excited, and I immediately agreed. And for me it was a big opportunity,” he explained from New York. “I arrived in San Diego this past semester after a friend of mine called Nir Bergman who did the first half and I did the second half of the semester where I teach writing and documentary filmmaking, and I think it is very powerful for the students and very powerful for me as well to teach and also to get to know San Diego.”
The documentary “In Between” follows an Israeli couple with two children who are separated by religious differences. Soon after the birth of their second child the husband decides to become Orthodox.
“The documentary … follows the struggles of one family and a couple. Although the distances are getting bigger and bigger and the gap between them is getting bigger and bigger because she’s secular and he’s ultra religious, … it really shows how a couple manages to stay a couple … but I think it’s a very positive message,” he said.
Ofek also spoke about “No. 17,” a documentary that screened at the San Diego Jewish Film Festival in 2003. The documentary surrounds the identification of 17 people killed in a 2002 bus bombing in Megiddo, Israel. While 16 of the victims were identified, the 17th body was never claimed, “so there was an inquiry … trying to give number 17 a name,” he explained.” The film is documented in real time over a period of six months. It won the Israeli Oscar as well as other awards around the world and was broadcast on the Sundance channel.
Ofek began studying at the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School in Jerusalem shortly after getting out of the army.
“I started in the Jerusalem Film School when I was 20,” he said. “From there, really, I started to work on documentaries and then fiction from 1993 until now – almost 25 years.”
He told me filmmaking has always been his dream. “This is really what I wanted to do when I was growing up,” he remembered. “As a kid, I went to see the cinema, [which] showed a lot of good films, so it was really part of what I wanted to do … [It] was such a good opportunity to hear and meet other stories.”
His last project was an Israeli TV series called “Killing Grandma,” which won best comedy at the Israeli Oscars.
“It’s about a very poor family that the grandma controls them, and they sit on land that’s worth millions … and they decide to kill her. So that’s a fiction and it’s a black comedy,” he explained.
Ofek’s also working on a project called “House Call.” “I’m doing a documentary about people who want to die at home and their families and what it means to not die at the hospital but at home,” he said about the film.
Ofek, who said he’s always working on more than one project at a time, told me he hopes to come back to San Diego soon.
“I was so happy and overjoyed and [I] just really [had] the best time, and of course I think my kids, who were here for two months, I think they’ll come back [to] a place that was really an amazing experience for them, so I do hope to come. And if I have a film that will present in San Diego I will be really, really happy to participate.” Α
“In Between” will screen at the San Diego Jewish Film Festival. For times and locations check our festival schedule.