Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Exclusive Interview with Lipstikka’s Jonathan Sagall

ShalomLife speaks to Writer/Director of the much talked about TIFF film, Lipstikka

By: Ashley Baylen

Published: September 22nd, 2011 in Culture » Film » Interviews

Toronto born Jonathan Sagall was raised (a suitcase kid) between Canada, the U.S, and Israel. He attended the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, England.

“Drifting” (Nagua, Israel 1983), his first feature film as co-producer and leading actor, was presented at the Berlin International Film Festival 1984 and won various Israeli National Awards including Best Film, Best Leading Actor, Best Photography, and Best Screenplay.

“Urban Feel (Israel 1999), his first feature film as a writer-director-producer, premiered at the Golden Bear Official Competition at the Berlin International Film Festival 1999. The film was nominated in 12 categories for the Israeli Academy Awards 1999 and won two- Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, followed by numerous national and international awards.

Sagall also wrote and directed two independent shorts, “Zerach Lipshitz’ Last Little Vacation” which was presented at the Jerusalem International Film festival 1985, and “At Home” (Babait) presented in the Panorama section at the Berlin International Film Festival 1988.

He’s written and directed three stage plays- “Lea Goes Out On The Street” (1993), “Cockroach” (1995), and “Easy Fixes to a Shitty Life” (2007). His series of short stories “The Lonely Life of Hugo Asparagus” were published in the Israeli press in 1996. He was a regular staff writer on the Israeli-Palestinian production of “Sesame Street” in 1998.

Among his many film and TV acting credits are ‘Bobby’ in the popular Israeli film series “Lemon Popsicle” (Eis Am Stiel”, ‘Poldek Pfefferberg’ in Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” (1993), ‘Emanuel’ in his own film “Urban Feel” (1999), and ‘Asaf Refaeli’ in the Israeli Television drama series “Hamakom” (2008-2009).

Sagall’s most recent film, “Lipstikka” had three screenings during TIFF (see film review here: http://www.shalomlife.com/culture/15909/tiff-review-jonathan-sagalls-lipstikka/). Shalom Life had the opportunity to catch up with the director to discuss the film and his plans for the future.

Ashley Baylen (AB): You began your foray into the film industry as an actor. What inspired you to make the leap into writing and directing?

Jonathan Sagall (JS): I was out of work during the First Gulf War, Tel-Aviv was bombarded by Iraqi scud missiles, the industry was at a standstill and I was sitting at home with nothing better to do… so I wrote Urban Feel (Kesher Ir), which later became my first feature movie (Israel 1999).

AB: Do you find that your background as an actor helps you as a director?

JS: I should like to think it does. I try and implement everything I hate about directors I’ve worked with as an actor… demonstrating the delivery of lines is just one example. A director I’ve once worked with tried to show me how to “infuse passion” to my acting. Sometimes directors can actually demonstrate well, but at other times they only THINK they demonstrate well. I told him to either play the role himself or shut the hell up. He’s not spoken to me since.

AB: If you had to summarize the plot of ‘Lipstikka’ in one sentence, what would it be?

JS: Lipstikka is about things I worry about – love, sex, relationships, politics, memory, getting old and becoming insane.

AB: There’s been a bit of controversy around this story. Was that your intention when you were originally writing it?

JS: My intention was not to raise controversy but not to avoid it either. Controversy is not a bad thing. It shows that people are affected, moved, and perhaps even uncomfortable enough to discuss, solve or understand what they’re feeling.

AB: Did you have a specific agenda when making this film? Was there a specific message you were hoping to convey?

JS: It’s never a SINGLE agenda. There are a few. Loneliness, passion (or loss of it), grace (or loss of it), compassion, friendship, monogamy, family, marriage etc… all which, I think, are part of human interaction. But the main agenda I wanted to tackle is the political situation in my home region. The redundant suffering afflicted on both Israelis and Palestinians due to the ongoing conflict fueled by our leaders. People follow their leaders. Leaders here have lost touch with their people and are injecting more and more fear and hatred –simply to justify their lack of action to solve a conflict which has been going on for decades! Leaders shower their people with empty slogans, moral-social-political issues, governments and leaders pass those same slogans on to their successors and many times people buy this shit. I was happy to see that lately people have begun to doubt their leaders ability of providing a better life and are finally hitting the streets and demanding change.


AB: Do you believe you were successful in conveying this message?

JS: I can’t say. Sometimes I feel I yell my lungs out but produce no voice…

AB: I saw the film at TIFF and loved it. I saw it as a story about perception and memory more so than a socio-political drama. Were these themes in mind while writing the script?

JS: Thanks. If Perception and Memory are what you perceived the film is about then so be it. Interesting enough, although I am wondering what that entails – in your opinion – specifically. Audiences react differently. It’s reassuring. I probably did SOMETHING right.

AB: What’s next on your plate?

JS: I need to find a quiet place for a few months to finish the re-writes on my next film – if you have any knowledge of such a place do let me know.

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