Shalom Life | May 12, 2014

Director Emmanuel Naccache On Conning the Audience in ‘Kidon’

Shalom Life chats with the director of the hit Israeli movie starring Bar Refaeli and Tomer Sisley

By: Ilan Mester

Published: May 9th, 2014 in Culture » Film » Interviews

It’s safe to say Kidon isn’t your typical Israeli film. For starters, it’s a con movie that stars well-known actors from both French and Israeli cinema. And, unlike a good chunk of movies produced in the Holy Land, director Emmanuel Naccache’s latest flick is a full-blown comedy.

The French-raised, Israel-based filmmaker admits he was a little worried that his film might not find an audience because of the lack of comedies in Israel.

“There used to be [comedies] in the ‘70s, early ‘80s,” he tells Shalom Life ahead of a screening at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival. “Some 20, 25 years ago it started getting very political. Most of the movies are very social, very dark, very politically oriented – very involved with the conflict. There are not so many comedies and for sure there are not many that make fun of things like the Mossad or the Arabs or the diplomacy.”

To his relief, the movie (which was released last October in Israel) became a bonafide hit. “People really enjoyed it because I think there’s something refreshing about it.”

Kidon reimagines the now famous Dubai killing of Mahmoud al Mabhouh, which made headlines around the world back in 2010. Naccache remembers he was sitting at a café when he came across the bizarre story in a newspaper and instantly thought it would make a great movie.

The director says he was also stunned by the fact that within hours of the event, people had already accepted that the Mossad was behind the killing. “Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. I’m not from the Mossad so I don’t know,” he says.

He decided to give the story his own spin. “It’s not less or more plausible – just another version based on the same facts,” he says. “And that’s how it all started.”

He adds: “I wanted to make it a comedy partly because I’m an Israeli filmmaker and we don’t have budgets to make Hollywood-type movies, so I didn’t want to make something that looked like an American movie with lots of explosions – I didn’t have a way to do it. And I didn’t want to do something too serious because so many people do serious movies.”

The writer-director took inspiration from Ocean’s 11, but promises his film differs from the American crime comedy. “It’s very different because it’s a different type of subject and it’s French and Israeli. And George and Brad didn’t star in Kidon,” he jokes, adding that in his original draft two of the characters were named after George Clooney and Brad Pitt so that he would stay in that Ocean’s 11 mind frame.

Naccache didn’t get to work with Hollywood legends, but he did score some of the biggest names in France and Israel. In Kidon, supermodel Bar Refaeli and French humorist Tomer Sisley share the screen with veteran actors such as Sasson Gabai and Hippolyte Girardot. And the list of household names goes on and on.

“My first movie was the same thing; mixing French and Israeli actors, and languages,” he explains. “Doing something that is kind of similar to what I am, with both cultures and both nationalities. This time, I really wanted to go a step further with more actors and taking people who would never have any opportunities to act together.”

The filmmaker admits he wasn’t sure what to expect from Refaeli, who didn’t have many acting credits under her belt. In the end, he says the supermodel was a natural. “She ended up being amazing. She’s a very nice, very sweet girl,” he says, revealing that she dedicated herself to the project and was nervous to act opposite Gabai.

“If you have to spend four years working on a movie, why not work with Bar Refaeli?” he jokingly adds.

Naccache says it took him that long because he developed, wrote and directed the flick. “When you’re a one-stop shop, it’s four years or three years where you do all sorts of different things,” he explains. “For a very long time you’re alone in front of your laptop and then you have to deal with the whole raising money issue, which is going to producers and selling it.”

Once that’s been settled, he brings in a cast and crew. “From being alone you end up being the CEO of a small startup of 100 people,” he says. “But you know it’s only for two or three months. You don’t even have time to fight or to have some political issues, so it’s really nice.”

At the end of the day, he’s just happy that the film is completed and turned out the way he imagined.

“I always wanted to do a movie that no one could tell me, ‘Okay I saw it coming from the beginning,’ ” he says. “A con movie, of course you tell the story of a con, but you mostly con the audience. And audiences really love being conned.”

For screening times in Toronto, visit www.tjff.com.

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