On Thursday, October 19, the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven will screen the 2022 Israeli documentary "The Other City,” followed by a conversation with the film’s creator/director Livi Kessel. A great success in Israel, the JCC screening will mark the film’s US debut. It was launched at the "Doc Aviv" festival and recently started its run at international festivals worldwide.
“The Other City” tells the story of Livi, a photography student who, in 2007, moves into an empty building in downtown Haifa. Just before her loneliness urges her to leave, Shahar, Zvi, Iddo and Talia move into that very building – young artists themselves. The friendship ignites in an instant and, when Zvi can’t pay his rent, they decide to rent a space together, half of which will be Zvi’s dwelling and half – an art gallery and bar. Their joint effort thrives, but cracks begin to show. Ultimately, the gallery closes and the group disperses. For 12 years, Livi follows their journey to fulfill their dreams as they face several difficulties, unfolding both intimately and lovingly, revealing the story of five friends and their maturing process.
Recently, Shalom New Haven spoke with Livi Kissel about “The Other City” from her home in Israel.
SHALOM NEW HAVEN (SNH): What motivated you to make this film?
LIVI KISSEL (LK) — I started documenting my friends right after they moved to my building in downtown Haifa in 2008. I was a 24-years-old photography student living in a half empty building in downtown Haifa. I was very lonely and was planning to leave my apartment when Shahar and Tzvi—an artist and a musician—moved into my building. They were so different from anyone I had ever met but, most of all, it made me feel love and intimacy and more comfortable with who I was than ever before. I started shooting them because it was magical to me. I had never had anyone so close to me.
I was documenting our joint life and our urbanist cultural activities for several years.
Then, in 2016, months after our gallery was closed and we weren't living together anymore, I got depressed. I was a mother of a young child with no clear prospect. I was shooting weddings for a living, but not having the joint activities and life as a group left a big void in my life.
SNH: How does it feel to make a film about yourself?
LK: This documentary follows the journey of five artists for about 14 years—first as a group, but mostly as individuals, trying to make it through life obstacles while not giving up their dreams of being artists. The five deals with alcoholism, parenting challenges, financial crisis and manic depression. I get to watch the film every once in awhile at festivals, and I sometimes catch myself thinking “ Damn, it’s been a long journey. It really shows the essence of our life in the past 14 years”
SNH: What is the message you wish the audience to take away?
LK: I think It shows the price people pay in order to live for their dreams. It also shows that sometimes you have to adjust your dreams a little.
It’s funny because in the film you get to see the “backstage” of being artists. Nothing fancy or glorious and yet many times people in the audience say they wish they where like the people in the film. It kind of shows “The road not taken” of most people.
The film gives you strength not to give up.
SNH: What is your next project?
LK: I have two new projects. The first one,“Nina,” is a joint project with producer/director Ravit Markus, that will hopefully premiere in early 2024. It tracks Israeli para-badminton champion Nina Gorodetsky's exciting three-year journey to try and defy the odds and fulfill her paralympic dream without sacrificing her maternal desires. It is supported by Gesher Film Fund, NY Women in Film and TV, Israeli Paralympic Committee, Barbara Dobkin, Gilbert Foundation.
The second one that just completed The New Fund for Cinema and Television
developing hub, deals with the epidemic of women being murdered by their partners or ex-partners. It tells my personal story as a high school student who got into a relationship. It’s a very painful topic in Israel and, unfortunately, all over the world.
The screening of "The Other City" is free and open to the public. Pre-registration is required. For further details email Doron Wolf at: email@example.com