Challenging the stereotypes

Gali Weintraub had to overcome quite a bit before her film could be shown at the Reframing Reality Festival.

By
April 25, 2010 09:41
4 minute read.
Director Gali Weintraub

Gali Weintraub 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Director Gali Weintraub embodies many of the complexities and contradictions that are at the heart of the very ambitious Reframing Reality Festival, which showcases more than 80 films including features, documentaries and shorts from Israel and abroad, both by and about people living with disabilities. It examines stereotypes and preconceptions about those who are “challenged” in some way, and through films, but also through panels, art exhibits, video installations, dance, theater and music, it allows those with disabilities speak for and about themselves. And what they have to say is often surprising.

Weintraub, 31, directed the film You Wanted to Turn it Into a Movie as her graduation project for the Camera Obscura art school. The film will be screened on April 28 at noon, and the sassy title gives a hint of the film’s tone.

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“I was interested in how people with disabilities have and raise children,” she says. “So I looked for couples with disabilities who were raising children.”

Although she did find some people, it was hard to find a couple who would open themselves up for the camera, recalls Weintraub, who has had difficulties with motor skills from birth.  Eventually she did find a willing couple: “Zehava Padnes is a polio victim, a mother of two children dreaming of dancing, who is in a wheelchair, and Oren Braier is a young man who specialized in folk dance – both his parents had polio. He saw his father dance in a wheelchair. Zehava and Oren dreamed of putting on a unique, joint dance performance in which they would do the impossible. They suggested that I make a film about their dance performance.”

But as she worked, conflicts arose between the dancers and the director, all of whom had different visions for the film, and also between Gali and her very involved and supportive mother.

“The editor of the film said I should put myself into the movie. There are conflicts within conflicts, a movie within in a movie,” Weintraub says.  

When I ask her about other difficulties she had in making the film, I assume she’ll refer to her disability. Instead, she tells me that Camera Obscura went bankrupt while she was still at work on the film. Although she would no longer have the support and guidance she had gotten while a student, Weintraub decided to continue.



“I thought, ‘I want to make movies; I’m going to go with this all the way – it’s my dream.’ And my dream came true,” says the director, who admires the films of Martin Scorsese and David Lynch, and who was particularly inspired by the final dance sequence in the movie Billy Elliot.

BUT ALTHOUGH Weintraub doesn’t dwell on the physical difficulties that drew her to think about this subject in the first place, her life has not been easy. Her limitations manifested themselves mainly in a problem with equilibrium and balance, and she received a great deal of physical therapy and help during her childhood. But she attended mainstream schools and has resolved most of her issues, she says.

I assume she will tell me she was thrilled when I ask how she felt upon learning her film would be shown at the Reframing Reality Festival, but she just smiles. “I’m always happy when it’s in a festival,” she says, and I learn that You Wanted to Turn it Into a Movie has already been in more than 50 festivals, including in Germany, India, Poland, Brazil, Spain and the Ukraine.

Did she travel to present her film at these festivals?

“Of course,” she answers. “Seeing the audience react to the film really warmed my heart. And this is the first time the film is being shown in Israel.”

When she isn’t traveling the globe with her movie, she works with Etgarim, the organization that sets up sports and activities for the disabled. She is looking for work as a researcher in television or films, and recently organized a job fair for companies interested in hiring people with disabilities and “was pleased representatives from quite a few companies came.”

Weintraub will also take part in a panel, on April 29 at 1 p.m., on how filmmakers who are disabled make their movies. As for how she feels about a festival specifically about the disabled, she says, “Anything that will contribute to understanding and bring a positive message to the public, I’m for.”

The festival runs April 27-29 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque. The opening ceremony, moderated by retired newscaster and filmmaker Haim Yavin, features films and music and will take place on the evening of April 26. For more details about the festival or to order tickets, go to http://tickets.jer-cin.org.il.

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