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(photo credit: Barad Entertainment)
There's an obvious question I have for writer/director Mia Goldman, who is at the 23rd Jerusalem Film Festival to attend a screening of Open Window, her directorial debut. But I'm hesitant to ask.
Open Window is a remarkable film about a difficult subject, a rape and how it affects the lives of both the victim and her fiancee. Open Window has an honesty about it that manages to transcend the usual cinematic clich s concerning rape. As I was watching it, I kept wondering whether Goldman, who's had a stellar Hollywood career as a film editor on movies such as My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Julia Roberts' Something to Talk About, had based the movie on her own life.
Goldman graciously takes the pressure off at the beginning of the interview when she tells me that, while on location for another film, Crazy People, "I got raped."
But Open Window was never intended "to be a 'rape film,'" she says. "I wanted it to be a story that was universal. What I'm trying to say is that there's hope, but it's not about recovery. It's about something unexpected that was horrible and how the choices you make in response to what happens determine who you are."
In the aftermath of the attack, Goldman says, she was nearly fired from her editing job because she had to take time off. She credits Tom Barad, who produced Open Window and Crazy People, with helping her keep her job. "It was awful. So often, the victims are victimized again" after the attack, she says.
A crucial part of the film is how and when Izzy (played by Robin Tunney), a young Los Angeles photographer, decides to tell her friends and family about being raped by a stranger in her darkroom.
"It's a dark film because I wanted it to be realistic," Goldman says. "It's about how the evil [of the rape] spreads like cancer to everyone around the victim and her fianc , to varying degrees."
For a few moments, I am nervous I'll say something insensitive (as several characters do, especially Izzy's brassy but ultimately admirable mother, played in a bitterly comic turn by Cybill Shepherd). It also hits me that this is the first interview in which I was afraid to ask a filmmaker whether his or her movie was autobiographical.
Goldman soothes my anxieties, explaining that after a rape, many people simply don't know how to respond. In the movie, Izzy confounds expectations and frustrates her fianc by refusing to report the rape to police. Goldman, who also did not report her rape immediately, says, "Everyone has his own path. You can become better," but not necessarily by taking the expected steps. Goldman emphasizes that she is not against victims going to the police, but explains that in her film, Izzy "doesn't want to be a part of it [the police process]." Goldman got through her own experience with the help of her therapist, as Izzy eventually does in the film.
The film has struck a chord with festival audiences each time it has been shown. Barad, who is visiting Jerusalem with Goldman and her husband, recalls, "At Sundance, people would come up to Mia in the street. It was as if the movie was a window they could jump through to relate all their own traumas."
Goldman is proud that many men are moved by the story of the fiancee, who is neither the sensitive angel nor the brutal male chauvinist that the partners of rape victims are usually portrayed as on screen. Men have come up to her and told her, "This is my story. I couldn't talk to anyone about this," she said.
It isn't easy to write a screenplay about a horrific personal experience, and even harder to get such a movie produced. But Goldman, the daughter of Oscar-winning screenwriter Bo Goldman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Scent of a Woman), was able to work with some of the directors and producers she had known for years as an editor to bring Open Window to the screen.
Goldman managed to get an all-star supporting cast for the film - Shepherd , Elliott Gould and Shirley Knight (Bree's mother-in-law on Desperate Housewives and the star of The Group and The Rain People).
"To make this movie was a miracle. It's hard enough to get any independent movie made these days, and then to make one about such a difficult, uncomfortable subject is even harder. But we did it and now we hope to get it out there to more audiences," says Goldman.