Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Israel’s Hagar Ben-Asher Talks ‘The Slut’

The Israeli director/actress/writer joins SL to discuss her latest release ‘The Slut’

By: Ashley Baylen

Published: November 12th, 2012 in Culture » Film » Interviews

SLUT is a very controversial word. More so than other questionable four-letter words, Slut has been the center of many feminist, political, and philosophical arguments for decades. Israeli multi-hyphenate (writer-director-actress), Hagar Ben-Asher’s, decision to boldly title her debut feature film, ‘The Slut’, has garnered international attention, and surprising critical acclaim and social acceptance in her home country of Israel.

An Official Selection of Critics’ Week at the Cannes Film Festival and Chicago International Film Festival, ‘The Slut’ follows Tamar, a beautiful single mother that lives alone in a small village with her daughters. She seeks out casual, and meaningless, sexual encounters to fulfill a void, until she meets Shai, a young man passing through the village to handle her deceased mother’s assets. Their intense relationship challenges Tamar’s promiscuity, and takes the audience on an intimate journey, exploring the notions of freedom, independence, and love. ‘The Slut’ was nominated for 3 Israeli Academy Awards, including Best Actress, Best Cinematography, and Best Costume Design.

Ben-Asher established herself in Israel when her short film, ‘Pathways’, won the Cinefondation prize in Cannes a few years back. She has become a popular actress with leading roles in TV series, ‘The Ran Quartet’, and feature film ‘Julia Mia’. ‘The Slut’ marks her feature film debut as a director and writer.

Ben-Asher recently sat down with Shalom Life to discuss the films’ title character, themes, and international reception.

ASHLEY BAYLEN (AB):.‘The Slut’ is your first feature film, not only as a director, but also writer and actress. What was it about this story that drew you in?

HAGAR BEN-ASHER (HB): It is always hard to identify the starting point of a project, especially when the process is so demanding. I started exploring the questions surrounding the connection between sexuality and violence two years before the slut, while making my graduation film “pathways”, which held a similar theme. While writing the slut, I have learned that this woman is much more than a representative of a fainted ideology, and that she is actually driven by forces I was not aware of. At that point I realized that this story is indeed drawing me in, due to the fact it is a complete mystery to me. There for, I’ve decided to meet my challenge and explore her psychic, and my own personal conflicts .

AB: The film has been deemed controversial, but also revolutionary. Were you considering the reaction from both Israel and international audiences while developing the script and filming?

HB: It would be naïve to reply this with a “no”, but for me, the question of the dialogue between a filmmaker and an audience, exists in a few aspects, and not only by the one considering the external (seeing the film as if having a controversial/revolutionary agenda) point of view.

I believe that filmmaking is a seductive art form, which demands generosity and preciseness. Through the making, I constantly ask myself how and where I locate my audience regarding the complete structure, or a microscopic shot. For me, the main goal of filmmaking lays within the abstract sphere of leading/debating/discussing with the audience. I am often accused of being provocative for the sake of provocation, but if I reduce this word to its’ primal meaning, I find this to be the essence of art.

AB: Why did you decide to star in the film?

I wish I had a good answer for this. I have some solid explanations, but no answers. It was difficult for me to find the right actress- of course, it is possible I could not- I thought that perhaps it was the best choice when dealing with such delicate matters -unlimited, questionable, lacking of boundaries- it seemed to me to be the accurate intellectual approach when thinking of the cinematic impact I was aiming for, and so on. Eventually, I realized there’s no other way. What was that realization exactly, I can’t define.

AB: In your opinion, what is ‘The Slut’ about?

HB: The Slut, for me, is about a woman that wants to have a will of her own.

Click over to page 2 for the second half of our interview with ‘The Slut’s’ Hagar Ben-Asher!

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