AVIVA-Berlin: Did the film change their lives? If so, how?
Ilil Alexander: Yes, I think so. It is not the minute the film goes out there but I think what was much more stronger is the fact that they decided it and they made a decision to be part of the film. It meant for them after years of years of hiding this part of their identity, suddenly something changed in them when they made this decision to shout their voice and speak out loud to other people. It is probably not easy and I think it is also making the film too curious. At the beginning they really wanted to take part in it but said they could never do that. And it took nearly a year until they said, "Yes, we will be in the film", and another year until they felt that they could really be there. And not be frightened. At a certain point they really took on their shoulder the message to bring the stories in order to help other women. And also like bringing the stories. It was also fascinating to see them really accepting themselves. This was more important then anything else. Someone like Miriam Ester. She didn┬┤t make this vault twenty years ago - she was afraid to overcome her lesbian tendency and for twenty years she couldn┬┤t let her just agree with the fact she is a lesbian. She kept fighting herself. I just came and met her after this twenty years and suddenly she made a decision that she┬┤s gonna to accept it. It all made it easier on her by the fact that she decide to tell her story. Out there, loud. So we can help other people. But actually the person she helped the most was herself. For that the profit of being in the film was very, very important. And also once the film got out there it probably changed her life, and especially for Yudith. For her being in the film was like coming out of the closet. It was a significant change in her life. Because now after the film is out - and she told me that before the film was released, she told me, "Listen, don┬┤t be so afraid about the damage it can cause me, I am doing it on purpose, and I can┬┤t go back. I want everybody to know that, because once they know that and I can┬┤t hide and lie anymore, because I am tired of lying and hiding my identity". She really grew with this film. I grew with them.
AVIVA-Berlin: How did the theme come to you, then?
Ilil Alexander: Oh, crazy. Ten years ago there was a bus explosion in Jerusalem and many people were killed, and many people were injured. There was one body that no one came to claim. After a few days an ultra-orthodox guy came and he identified the body of his sister. Then it was actually revealed that she was an ultra-orthodox woman. And she had been excommunicated because she was a lesbian. I started investigating the story, so I tried to contact many religious women. I put notices all around the religious neighbourhoods in Jerusalem. I was asking women if they knew the story of this woman who died in this explosion and to contact me. No one did, but then after three months there was one response. She wrote me in an email that she is an ultra- orthodox and that she knows the story of that woman and that she will help me. So we started corresponding for a year and I was answering so many emails that she sent me of many, many women. And it was very clear that all those women are actually one woman who was hiding her identity for the last twenty years and this was actually her emails. It was Miriam Ester who then decided it to be part of the film. This is how I got to it.
AVIVA-Berlin: You said you┬┤re not a lesbian, but that you┬┤re also not quite sure. After you got involved in the needs, feelings and fears of lesbians - what would be your biggest fears about being a lesbian? Can you imagine something?
Ilil Alexander: I don┬┤t really have fear about it. The really big fear is to be in a position when you are not sure what life means to you. I don┬┤t think I am afraid of finding out that I am a lesbian. I think if that is not what I am find out till now I will never find it but actually for me loving like either men or women seems fully natural. My reality is that I do fall in love with men. But if a woman comes and I fall in love with her, so it will happen. I will let you know. All I want to say in the screening is that everything I am saying is right for this moment. If something will happen like two years from now so must let it happen, right. I didn┬┤t do this film from hidden lesbian feelings. I did it for solidarity between women. I did it with a really strong feeling of identification with belonging-ness of that woman who finds herself dead after the explosion and no one came to even to ask for her. For me this is the starting point and this is actually about women which are trying to find a place in the community in which they belong.
AVIVA-Berlin: What does religion mean to you?
Ilil Alexander: I think in this very cynical world we are living in. There is something very beautiful in it. I think it is not really religion. It is more something that has to do with faith, with love and with respect. So all things that are part of the essence in religion in its beautiful parts. Because it has also some not that beautiful parts. Sometimes it can be delivered in a very ignorant way, and can be narrow-minded. But for me there is something in religion in this all eye view of believing and of trusting and which has a lot of beautiful sides. I do appreciate people that believe in something it also can be an idea, it can be people, and it can be anything. I believe in people - that is my own religion. I do not really believe in God, at least not at this night, at this hour, at this faith in my life.
AVIVA-Berlin: Did your family like the film? Where are your familiy roots?
Ilil Alexander: My family is originally several generations from Russia and Rumania. Maybe it is a very unspectacular family. My mother is from Rumania and my father was born in Israel.
They couldn┬┤t believe that something will get out of it. So we were all staying in the premier of the film at the festival in Israel - the "dokavisel festival". And I remember my father saying, "Wow, what a film". And my brother kept telling him, "What a film! I never thought such a film would come out of it!" They really liked the film. It was made with a lot of love.
AVIVA-Berlin: The story is a tragic and sad one but it leaves the audience with a tiny bit of hope in that perhaps the Tora will reveal the truth someday. What is your message about life if you had to put it in one sentence?
Ilil Alexander: Well, I think, what is tragic is that there is a part of what is happening to you that you cannot change. Maybe you and I could have found us born in a very ultra-orthodox community, and then this will be the way we think, you know. But I think there is a choice, and for every choice you take there is a prize. And what is so amazing about these women is that they take the prize in a very lovely manner and it keeps them as a very unique and lovely and full of believing women. That doesn┬┤t change. And I really believe in that. Because they do struggle and they do have their own war. But they don┬┤t do it with guns or violence. They do it with a lot of belief and love. And this is the optimistic side of it.
AVIVA-BERLIN: Ilil Alexander, thank you very much. We wish you all the best!
The German premier of ┬┤KEEP NOT SILENT┬┤ was shown at the Jewish Film Festival Berlin 2005 and awarded the "Gerhald-Klein-Publikums-Preis".
Documentary: Israel 2004, 52 Min. Original version with English subtitles
Director: Ilil Alexander
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