‘I hoped that it would inspire people to step out of line and not just accept the status quo,’ said Ondi Timoner, talking about her latest documentary, Brand: A Second Coming, which will be shown at Docaviv, the Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival, on May 25 at 8:30 p.m. and May 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.
Docaviv stared last week and runs through May 28 at the cinematheque, with additional screenings and events at the Tel Aviv Port and other venues around the city.
Timoner, who won the Grand Jury Prize for documentary film twice at the Sundance Film Festival (for We Live in Public
) will attend the first screening of Brand, as well as a showing of Dig!, a look at the rivalry between two rock bands, the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols. Dig! will be screened on May 24 at 8:30 p.m.
Timoner will give a master class on May 25 at 9:30 a.m. Her visit is being sponsored jointly by Docaviv and the Film Department of Beit Berl College.Brand: A Second Coming
is a look at the life, work and philosophy of irreverent, politically engaged stand-up comedian/ actor Russell Brand.
“Russell is someone who seemingly has it all, and he’s looking for something.
He speaks to a generation of people that feel they don’t even have a way to be involved... I felt that showing them an example of a person who is trying to do something more meaningful was something they could learn from.”
Brand had been making a movie on his own when he asked Timoner to step in.
“He’d been trying to make a film about happiness for years. He was interviewing all kinds of people, like Jay Leno, Cameron Diaz. He had become famous after to trying hard to become famous, and it wasn’t making him happy.”
Although she hadn’t been a fan of his, she went to a meeting about the project.
“He blew my mind in the room. He’s an autodidact, he was loquacious, his every word choice was poetic. I realized he had a lot to say, but he hadn’t captured it in the film... He had been seeking fame as a way to ameliorate all the pain he had from his upbringing.”
In the finished film, Brand details his difficult childhood. He grew up mostly with his single mother, who was seriously ill when he was young. Smart and creative, Brand found few kindred spirits in the drab suburb where he grew up.
He turned to drugs as a way to cope and developed a serious drug addiction.
“He was going to find happiness, he tried drugs, he slept with thousands of women, he tried everything we are taught could make him happy from the outside in.”
One of his attempts to make himself happy was his short-lived marriage to pop-music diva Katy Perry, whom he famously broke up with via a text message.
“I told him if I could actually tell his story, we would have a movie that would be meaningful... but we had to shoot a whole new film.”
Brand was about to start performing Messiah Complex
, his new show. The movie includes clips from the show, in which Brand riffs, with obscene candor, on all kinds of subjects, including Jesus, Che Guevara, Gandhi and Malcolm X.
“Through the comedy, it was almost as if he was stepping into their shoes,” she said.
It also features painfully honest interviews with Brand and his friends and family and shows him protesting and encouraging others to demonstrate against corporations and governments.
Timoner had hoped Brand would promote the film, but he declined.
“He said, ‘I can’t stand on a red carpet.’” She spoke philosophically about his decision, saying, “I like to look at impossible visionaries, people who break out of the mold and can’t help but do what they do. It’s not the easiest road... he’s a disrupter.”
Mentioning a popular Ted Talk she gave (which can be seen on YouTube), she referred to its title, “When Genius and Insanity Hold Hands,” a metaphor for her vision of Brand and other thinkers.
In addition to making her own films, Timoner is the founder/CEA (Chief Executive Artist) of the award-winning production company Interloper Films, and A Total Disruption, a network for entrepreneurs and artists documenting the dramatic changes affecting the world through technology. This passion for innovative thinking is in Timoner’s blood. Her father, Eli Timoner, is an entrepreneur who founded Air Florida, “the fastest growing airline in the world,” which was similar to today’s low-cost, no frills air-carriers and operated from 1972 until the early ‘80s. She spoke with pride of his accomplishments, calling him “a great friend of Israel” who is active in the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. Her sister, Rachel Timoner, is a the rabbi of Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn.
Timoner will be visiting Israel with her 12-year-old son, whom she calls “her best friend,” and said that although she visited Israel years ago this will be his first trip here.
“He was born the week I finished shooting Dig!” and went touring with her to promote the film, visiting 17 countries before he was two.
Although she is happy to be working in “the golden age of documentaries,” Timoner’s next project will be a “scripted film”( a term she prefers to “feature film”), about photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, starring Matt Smith (Doctor Who) and Zosia Mamet (Girls).
“I consider all my movies feature films because they are all dramatic,” she explained.
To order tickets, go to the festival website at www.docaviv.co.il/2016.