Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Directors Tal Granit, right, and Sharon Maymon pose for photographs following an interview with The Associated Press) for their film The Farewell Party, during the 71st edition of the Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/David Azia)
Israel’s ‘The Farewell Party’ finds humor in death
First Published Aug 31 2014 11:43 am • Last Updated Aug 31 2014 11:43 am

Venice, Italy • With dozens of films jostling for attention at the Venice Film Festival, it takes originality to make an impact. Two Israeli filmmakers have done it by refusing to accept that death is no laughing matter.

"The Farewell Party" centers on a group of Jerusalem retirement-home residents who create a euthanasia machine to put a dying friend out of his misery — and then face a moral dilemma when others come seeking the same service.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The movie treats assisted suicide — illegal in Israel and many other countries — with large doses of comedy, an idea some may find off-putting. But directors Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit insist that the movie’s unusual tone, with shoots of laughter and absurdity illuminating the darkness, simply reflects real life.

Maymon said the seed of the film was the death of his ex-boyfriend’s elderly grandmother.

"We felt like death released her from pain and suffering — but then the paramedics came into the house and tried to resuscitate her for half an hour," the director said during an interview in Venice. "They were fighting for her life like she was 16 years old. It was so absurd, and from this absurd moment the idea came.

"There was a funny moment when her son told the paramedics: ‘If you wake her up, you are taking her with you.’"

The directors know not everyone will find that funny. Granit said some people had been scandalized by the idea for their film.

"They told us, ‘How can you laugh about such a thing?’" she said.

"But we really believed in this movie, what it says. It’s very important for us to raise these questions."

And, she said, "We love to take risks."


story continues below
story continues below

Maymon and Granit have a record of tackling tough social issues with humor in their three previous shorts and one feature, "Mortgage," about a couple battling to save their home at any cost.

The script for "The Farewell Party" won the "best pitch" award at the Berlin Film Festival, but finding a producer proved tricky in Germany, where many oppose assisted suicide because of its association with Nazi euthanasia programs.

Even when the money was in place, casting also had its glitches.

The protagonists in "The Farewell Party" are played by well-known Israeli actors, including veteran comedian Ze’ev Revah as Yehezkel, the amateur inventor of the mercy-killing machine.

Maymon said Revah consulted his rabbi before agreeing to take the part. Some other actors didn’t show up for auditions.

"It was very hard for them to deal with this subject because they are old and they felt that it’s too close for them," he said.

Israel’s film industry is vibrant for a country its size, but the Israeli-Palestinian conflict sometimes shadows its productions on the international stage.

Another Israeli-funded film at the festival, "Villa Touma," is at the center of a political spat after Israeli Arab director Suha Arraf submitted it as a Palestinian entry, sparking calls in Israel for the director to give the Israeli money back.

Israeli scripts have been the basis of several Hollywood hits, however, including the television series "Homeland."

Maymon’s last feature, the sumo-wrestling comedy "A Matter of Size," is being remade in Hollywood, and it’s easy to imagine "The Farewell Party" getting the same treatment. The international audience in Venice reacted warmly; the Hollywood Reporter called in a charming film that approached its subject "with wisdom, sensitivity and a welcome strain of humor."

It also offers plum roles for older actors. The main cast members do everything from pratfalls to poignant exchanges and even have a nude scene.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.