Before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni

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The feature as it first appeared in the Jerusalem Post Lite.

Well, that was a cute, somewhat misleading hook for an interview I did recently for the Jerusalem Post Lite. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Adi Ezroni, she is one of the lead actresses in Hatufim, the Israeli series that Homeland is based upon. She’s also a serious Hollywood producer: A Late Quartet with Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, and Christopher Walken came out on November 2 in the US and she executive produced it!

If you’re abroad and haven’t seen Hatufim, you’re in luck: the first season is available with English subtitles on Hulu and Sky Arts.

*Warning: There are spoilers for the second season of Hatufim towards the beginning of the interview.

As always, let me know what you think!

 

Interview with Adi Ezroni

Hatufim lead actress, Hollywood producer and huge Princess Bride fan.

By Laura Rosbrow

Hatufim just began its second season. We were thrilled to speak with Adi Ezroni, who plays Yael Ben-Horin, sister of Amiel Ben-Horin (played by Asi Cohen), one of three prisoners of war (POWs) “released” after 17 years in captivity. Amiel was released, but died. Or so we thought.

Now, we know Amiel is alive, he’s a Muslim named Yusuf, and he’s secretly living with Syrian terrorists that tortured him. Meanwhile, Yael is starting to date Noni. What seems simple isn’t: Noni’s father was killed by a terrorist exchanged for the POWs’ release.

In a long afternoon chat at Café Noach, Adi Ezroni talked about playing Yael, how Gilad Shalit’s return changed Hatufim, Homeland, and being a Hollywood producer.

What’s been your greatest challenge playing Yael?

In this season, she’s trying to come out of a shell and put everything away. It’s hard figuring out who she is, because grief is such a part of her. Now she has a relationship, and Noni, as far as she knows, has no connection to her past. This is the most complex thing, because they have a perfect relationship.

It’s true that being alone or getting into emotional places is challenging. I think that acting with Asi Cohen was extremely helpful.

What is it like, acting with Asi Cohen?

A dream. It was easy to miss him, because it’s easy to fall in love with him. I recommend it to all actors. I think he’s doing something that’s extraordinary, to go from total comedy to being able to play Yusuf and speak in Arabic and look honest.

How did Gilad Shalit’s return affect this season?

I don’t think all the differences this season were done consciously because of Shalit’s return. But the fact that he did come back in the middle is interesting, because the second season can move away a little from the sensitivity, and be focused on good television drama.

I think the first season touched on a sacred issue that hasn’t been dealt with before. It was more focused on family drama, on them returning home. I think the first season had this feeling of intimacy with the audience, dealing with the subject with sensitive gloves. Ultimately, that was also an incredible plot.

In the second season there’s a lot more suspense. Now that Shalit’s back, we could also talk about the consequences of that decision. We can look at the prisoners that were exchanged for the deal, as well as families affected by terrorism.

What do you think of Homeland?

I think Gideon Raff did something that’s perfect for an American audience, which is to change the focus from the family drama to the investigation. It’s great re-formatting for TV, because this could go on forever – there could always be new people to investigate.

The Israeli show comes from a different perspective that is extremely intimate. The Israeli series focuses on the family drama because they’re one of us. The issue of kidnapping and being in captivity because of political events is real. It’s a daily thing. Everyone says the Israeli series is more personal, but it’s also more political.

What was it like meeting the cast of Homeland?

It was really nice. Now, the same production working on Homeland is the same one working on Hatufim. They were here shooting, and we screened the first episode of Hatufim, so they got to see us. They responded well to the screening of the second season premiere, and enjoyed being in Tel Aviv.

But the real climax was meeting Mandy Patinkin. I couldn’t believe I actually spoke with Inigo Montoya! I’m the biggest Princess Bride fan. He has an incredible career besides that movie. But Inigo Montoya’s such a person in and of himself.

I just recently went to see Princess Bride again after many years. I think that it’s the most perfect movie ever created. Every moment there are twists, turns, and punch lines. Wallace Shawn was also in one of the movies I produced recently.

Many people don’t know you’re an accomplished producer. Some of your films coming out soon have huge Hollywood stars.

I have a production company called Spring Pictures that I run with Mandy Tagger. Our first film, A Late Quartet, is coming out on November 2nd in the U.S. and November 29th in Israel. It’s director Yaron Zilberman’s first narrative film and stars an amazing cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener, Wallace Shawn, Mark Ivanir, Liraz Charhi, and Imogen Poots, who was just listed by Variety as one of “10 actors to watch in 2012.” I’m really excited.

Last, can you tell us juicy details about this season?

Yael will get much more than she asked for.

That’s no surprise. But during this season, Yael will have many surprises. Maybe Adi Ezroni will have some pleasant surprises in Hollywood.

‘Anyone Who Says Differently, Is An Idiot.’

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In this month’s edition of D”ash, the Jerusalem Post youth magazine that I edit, I introduced a fun new feature to the magazine. It’s a single-page feature called “So Random!” where we interview every day Israelis. No one famous: just regular people. Each interview will include the same random, personal questions. In 15 minutes, we want to capture the essence of the interviewee as best we can.

This first one was really amusing. To give you a taste the headline of this post, as well as the article itself, is a direct quote from the interview: ‘Anyone Who Says Differently, Is An Idiot.’

Let me know what you think, as well as questions you’d like to include in this feature.

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Music Interview with The Young Professionals (TYP)

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This month we decided to do a special music edition of D”ash, the international youth magazine that I edit for the Jerusalem Post. We figured August is usually a slow time for news, so why not make it pop (quite literally)? Below is the cover story/interview I did with TYP, a great Israeli up-and-coming electropop group. In fact, they’re so up-and-coming that Universal signed them for a three-album record deal. To boot, for those of you that don’t speak Hebrew, no problem: all their lyrics are in English!

I am pretty proud of this interview, also because it was one of the first interviews I’ve done in Hebrew (another step towards acculturation; check!). As always, let me know what you think.

Cover of D”ash’s August Issue

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The Young Professionals

D”ash interviews the most hyped Israeli band of 2012.

By Laura Rosbrow

Last year, The Young Professionals (or TYP for short) won Best Israeli Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards. This year, they signed a three-album deal with Universal. What makes this electropop duo, formed by veteran Israeli music scenesters Ivri Lider and Johnny Goldstein, such an international success? Besides their infectious melodies, catchy beats, and English lyrics, it probably has something to do with men in heels, campy dancing, and multi-layered videos.

Part of TYP’s tagline is “We create something new, always based on something old.” “D.I.S.C.O.”, their hit single, is a great demonstration of this concept. The song is an obvious homage to the Disco era, but the music video has various visual and musical influences. The girls that dance in the beginning are a colorful, hipster take on Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love”, also known to some as “that 80s video with models that look bored and fake play the guitar.” The girls here play keytars, and the song itself has a mix of 80s and indie electronic beats. So in one seemingly simple pop song, TYP takes us all the way from Disco, to the 80s, to today!

And here’s the clip:

Despite their impressive musical mastery, their real secret weapon is Uriel Yekutiel, their dancer. Extremely flamboyant, he is usually dressed in women’s clothing and heels, and often leads cheesy, choreographed group dances. His enthusiasm really brings the group to another level. First, he strengthens TYP’s connection to the LGBT community; Ivri Lider, himself openly gay, also sings frequently about relationships with men. But I also imagine that his energy makes their dance hits even catchier, helping TYP cement itself as a powerhouse on the electronic dance floor. This catchiness is also a large part of what has made them an international sensation.

Uriel doing signature campy dance in a TYP music video.

D”ash was thrilled to chat with this emerging pop duo. Similar to their videos, where Ivri sings while Johnny stares into the screen and occasionally taps his foot, Ivri was the bigger talker.

What led you to form TYP in the first place?

Ivri: The connection started about a project that featured many different artists but eventually, it didn’t come out. Then we played one year together for fun. And we didn’t plan all this, but we started to develop what we did together, and we found out that there was something tangible and wished to do something with it. Then we came up with TYP, which in its concept, is more than a band.

What is the importance of multi-media collaboration in TYP’s concept?

Ivri: It’s of huge importance. We don’t view it as mixing multi-media, but as one thing. And our band is a part of it. There are two musicians, a graphic designer, and a stylist as well. It’s more than the music. Music is an experience that combines all your senses. It’s not only what you hear, but also what you see. It’s about everything – what you wear, what you see on stage. It’s a total experience.

What impact has signing with Universal Music Group/ Polydor Records had on your lives? 

Ivri: I think that when you get connected to a huge body like Universal, it’s a very powerful bond because it allows us to do a lot of things. They have thoughtful and creative feedback that is really fun to accept. They have a great understanding of the market and it feels really good to collaborate with them. Basically, it enlarges our abilities – it allows us to do more.

Part of Universal’s feedback was to first release TYP’s debut album 9:00 to 17:00, 17:00 to Whenever in France (it was released in June). Why did they choose France first? 

Ivri: I think that France is a center for electronic music. The scene and especially the live music scene are very developed. They are very intelligent and stylish. They like things that are chic and special.

You said in an interview recently that, “We like opposites… we feel all those opposites is something in our everyday life.” This is reflected in different styles mixing within your music and videos. How much of this attitude comes from being Israeli?

Ivri: Yes, I think it’s a lot about being Israeli. There are all these extreme opposites that exist within Israel. You can find almost any opposites: within the economy, the music, that there’s liberal women walking down the beach in Tel Aviv and at the same time you have a woman walking down the street in Beit Shemesh that’s getting spat on. The fact that there’s also a war two hours from here, and clubs in Tel Aviv.

Part of it is also feeling like we live in a world where we have so many things. It’s part of also being Western people.

That’s interesting to hear your examples because they’re all parts of why living in Israel is stressful. But your music is really fun. Do you think that’s also part of being Israeli?

Ivri: We live in such a stressful environment that we don’t even notice it anymore. I definitely think the whole “party party” thing, especially in places like Tel Aviv, is a response to that stress. You know better than anyone (referring to said reporter) because you’re an olah chadasha (new immigrant) how stressful life can be in Israel. My boyfriend’s also an oleh, from Germany, and I see it through him how stressful life is here.

What do you want us to remember from this interview? 

Ivri: The fact that this is such a unique idea that is going to conquer the world!

TYP may not be conquering the world yet, but they will be performing in Paris and a few summer festivals in Europe. After that, we’ll see what Universal has up its sleeve: D”ash hopes this fun, thoughtful, artistic duo will go far.

Sivan Azulay and Tal Lado contributed reporting.

‘Israelis in Vietnam’ on JPost.com front page!

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Israelis in Vietnam: From drug addicts to fakers, and in the middle, the heroic truth,” is my first article published directly to the Jerusalem Post’s website! No need to pay for it! And it made it to the front page of the website…so that’s cool.

Front page of the Jerusalem Post's website, 1.22.11

The piece is about Vietnam War veterans that later immigrated to Israel. I did interviews with two of them and their stories are very moving, especially regarding trauma. They are both interviewed for a new documentary in Israel about Israeli-Americans that fought in Vietnam, which airs tonight on Israel’s History Channel.

Arthur Regev, Interviewee

Dr. Jack Pastor, Interviewee

Let me know what you think.

Holocaust free speech v. hate speech?

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There was a bill backed recently that would forbid the use of the term Nazi or anything associated with the Holocaust in Israel. This reminded me of the lessons I learned from writing the, “What are Holocaust humor’s limits?” article, and decided to write a Jpost post connecting the two. You agree with my assessment? Let me know what you think! I’m very curious to get others’ reactions.

Ultra-Orthodox protestors; Photo by Marc Sellem

Hipster Hitler comic with T-shirt

A word for losing a child

I wrote a new Jpost post reflecting on the fact that there’s a word in Hebrew for someone that loses a child. There’s a clip from Six Feet Under to compare Americans’ v. Israelis’ attitudes towards death. I guess there’s a reason I went back to Hebrew classes; language reveals so much. Let me know what you think.

PR photo

Six Feet Under PR Photo

Holocaust survivor creates moving art exhibition

Several weeks ago, I attended an amazing art exhibit by a Holocaust survivor. I was so moved that I wrote this review in the Jerusalem Post Lite below. The artist’s name is Israela Hargil, and the exhibit, Cherries and Golden Butterflies, is on display from now until January 1st at the Theater Art Gallery of Holon. It is about her experiences as a child during the Holocaust in Poland. (NOTE: the location has changed since the original publication.)

I posted this to my Jpost blog so I could encourage folks in Israel to see it. For those of you abroad, I merely urge you to read the review below. Hopefully this will bring you there in spirit.

Cherries and Golden Butterflies

A review of Israela Hargil’s exhibition about being a child during the Holocaust.

By LAURA ROSBROW

 

I see an art piece that consists of candy wrappers piled one-meter high. Above the candy wrappers there are metal wires hanging from the ceiling with candy wrappers tied along them, as if butterflies were flying above. Next to the piece, there is a poetic text explaining the story. The text ends by saying, “And one of the kids found a real sweet there.”

It is the story of an eight-year-old Jewish girl during the end of the Holocaust in Poland, remembering a candy factory being bombed. All the kids played with thousands of candy wrappers flying everywhere. Amidst this, one kid did find, “a real sweet there.”

This eight-year-old girl is now 73-year-old Israeli conceptual artist Israela Hargil, and this piece is part of her new exhibition, Cherries and Golden Butterflies, which can be seen at the Theater Art Gallery of Holon until January 1st, 2012. It is the third and final exhibition in a series of autobiographical work about being a child during the Holocaust.

Focusing on the end of the war, the exhibit captures the unique memories that only a child who survived the Holocaust could have: longing for a doll; pretending to be a “cow girl” to fit into the Polish family that was hiding her; buying a bag of cherries for only a penny. These sweet and dark memories are expressed through mixed media, combining elements such as photographs, found objects, personal writings and sculpture, Hargil’s specialty.

The exhibit has three large installations. The installations tell longer stories and have poetic text alongside them, such as the candy wrappers piece. These pieces are particularly strong. The size of the installations and the accuracy of the materials make you feel as if you are right there in her past.

The only other sculpture in the exhibit is also moving. It is a series of bronze bodies that express different stages of death. One particularly striking figure is crudely made, as if melted and without certain parts, lying like a body.

Most of the exhibit consists of what the artist calls “memory boxes,” that hang along the walls. Each of these is a cupboard filled with photographs and found objects from the artist’s past. Whereas the strength of her larger figures was in their sense of setting, the strongest memory boxes were more individually focused, all with photographs of the artist or her parents. These intimate views of her loneliness haunt the viewer.

Israela’s tale is amazing: She was born in 1938 in Poland. Only three years later, in 1941, her mother was killed. Soon afterwards, her father was convinced to place Israela, then called Eva, in the care of a Polish Christian family. During the Holocaust, Eva stayed with several families, often hiding under beds for months at a time.

Eventually her father, who became a Russian soldier during the war, came back. They both immigrated to Israel in 1948. Sadly, in 1952 he died of a heart attack. Israela remained on a childrens’ kibbutz.

For years this talented artist, who has exhibited at Yad Vashem and the Israel Museum, made abstract pieces. Only five years ago did she begin to do autobiographical work about the Holocaust.

After I saw the exhibit, which I was invited to through my friend (as well as her grandson), I wanted to interview her myself.

I asked her what inspired her to start doing work about the Holocaust. She explained that when she was around 12 years old she wrote a diary about this time. “I did it so I wouldn’t forget what happened during the war because my father was no longer with me. I wrote it so he’d read it and know what I went through.” She used these writings in her first two exhibitions, Photoerosion I and II.

She explained that when her father died (he had read some of her diary before), she inherited his papers: “From time to time, I would go to the attic and look at them,” she said. This went on for years. Then, around five years ago, she created a piece that had three empty boxes. The next thing that happened, “I made a collage of my mother, father, and me as a little girl.” And it just came out.

I asked why this is her last Holocaust exhibit?

She stated calmly, “I cleaned it out of my system. It made it easier. Now it’s not weighing so heavily on me.”

That’s good to hear.

 

For more information, visit Israela Hargil’s website: http://www.israela-hargil.co.il


Why Keeping it Real about Israel is Hard

I took a reprieve from doing the next chapter of My Israeli Love Story to focus on current events. I promise that, “My Israeli Love Story Part 2,” will be written in the near future, :).

However, this week’s post is quite different in style. It is one of my braver, not-so-neat-and-tidy posts. It’s called, “Why Keeping it Real about Israel is Hard,” and is on my Jpost blog.

The post begins with this sentence: “My friend asked if Jon Stewart had done anything on the Daily Show about the Israeli embassy attack in Cairo?” Read on to read intriguing conversations about Egypt, Israel, and the peace process!

Photo by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Creative Commons

Interviewed Jimmy Wales, Co-Founder of Wikipedia

I have to say, one of the coolest things I’ve gotten to do so far in journalism was this interview. Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, was in Israel last month for Wikipedia’s annual conference. He had a lot of interesting things to say about Wikipedia, journalism, and the tent protests going on in Israel. Check it out!

Jimmy-wales-frankfurt2005-alih01

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Andrew Lih via Wikimedia Commons