is an Israeli writer and director, who is also known for her work as a casting director. For the last 10 years she has been one of the leading casting directors in Israel, working on films such as “Big Bad Wolves
,” and “Sand Storm,” for which she received the Israel Film Academy’s prize for best casting in 2016. Having directed the short films “Shabbat Shalom” and “Crime Car” during her studies, she is making her feature film debut with “Montana
” will premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10.
W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.
Ls: In “Montana
,” main character Efi comes back to Acre, her hometown, after a 15-year absence. Upon her return she meets Maya, a nine-year-old girl who lives in Efi’s childhood home.
During Efi’s stay in town she realizes that she and Maya have a lot in common. Efi’s burgeoning love affair with Maya’s mother will help her settle a few old scores with those who drove her so far away, consequently saving Maya — and herself.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
Ls: My grandfather passed away four years ago — he drowned at sea. My grandfather was very strong man, unbreakable, and then one day he just drowned. The thought that he might have chosen to end his own life wouldn’t let go of me. Despite my family’s refusal to accept this theory, it was clear to me that this is what had happened.
I also never got the chance to come out to him and tell him the truth about myself — and I realized I simply had to tell a love story between two women specifically in his hometown, where a love story between two women isn’t very common. This film is dedicated to him.
W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?
Ls: Efi is not a victim. She doesn’t live in the past, but instead faces the present head on, confronting others. By doing so puts the mirror up to them, showing them how they live.
I would like men and women leaving the theater to ask if they truly “ see” their children in general and their daughters in particular. When Efi confronts Karen with what her daughter is going through, she in fact points the mirror at us as a society, alerts us to the bonds of silence, and in doing so forces us into action.
W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
Ls: The biggest challenge in making this film was shooting it in my actual childhood home: to go back to the memories, the sensations, the fragrances of the past, and to tell this specific story there in that place where it all began. That was the biggest challenge.
W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.
Ls: We made the film with a small, private investment. We decided not to wait for the film funds and to set out to tell the story. I knew it was my time to tell it and that if I were to wait any longer it wouldn’t come out the way that it did, and for that I am so very grateful.
W&H: What does it mean for you to have your film play at the Toronto International Film Festival?
Ls: It’s a huge honor. This festival is so important to me, I would love for “Montana
” to touch as many people as possible and there’s no doubt in my mind that this is the most important festival for widespread distribution, beyond the fact that this is a dream come true.
W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?
Ls: The best advice I received during filming was from Chilik Michali, my producer, who told me to be faithful to my story and to the truth that emanates from it, and not to be afraid to use my own voice because at the end of the day it’s my unique, distinct voice.
The worst advice I received was to wait for the film funds and not to shoot the movie on a low budget.
W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?
Ls: The best advice I can give other female directors everywhere is to go the distance with the message we want to send. There are so many fears in telling a small, personal story, and the more devoted we are to ourselves and to our truth, the more we will be able to inspire and touch people’s hearts.
W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.
Ls: My all-time favorite director is Andrea Arnold
. Her films illustrate femininity and strength in such fine lines, and they do so specifically from a weak place. It is from this weak place that we can — and should — grow stronger and there’s no director who depicts that better than her. I leave her films with an inexplicable sense of confidence that I have myself to rely on and that’s the most important thing.
W&H: There have been significant conversations over the last couple of years about increasing the amount of opportunities for women directors yet the numbers have not increased. Are you optimistic about the possibilities for change? Share any thoughts you might have on this topic.
Ls: There’s no doubt in mind that the best stories ever told and yet to be told in cinema have come and will come from women, so in fact, there’s no one more optimistic than me that things will turn around. And I’m glad to say that we can see change with each passing year.
Tiff 2017 Women Directors: Meet Limor Shmila
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