THE CAKEMAKER – Interview with Writer/Director Ofir Raul Graizer

Bold filmmaker Ofir Raul Graizer tackles love, sexuality, politics and religion in his powerful and moving feature film debut.  Here is our interview with Ofir about his film and much more!

"Thomas, a young German baker, is having an affair with Oren, an Israeli married man who has frequent business visits in Berlin. When Oren dies in a car crash in Israel, Thomas travels to Jerusalem seeking for answers regarding his death. Under a fabricated identity, Thomas infiltrates into the life of Anat, his lover’s newly widowed wife, who owns a small Café in downtown Jerusalem. Thomas starts to work for her and create German cakes and cookies that bring life into her Café.  Thomas finds himself involved in Anat’s life in a way far beyond his anticipation, and to protect the truth he will stretch his lie to a point of no return."  From The Cakemaker's Website.

The Cakemaker is as meticulous and made with such honest love that it's utterly gripping.  Tremendously acted, well shot and with a moving musical score that helps amplify Graizer's already impactful script.  

Here is my interview with Filmmaker Ofir Raul Graizer.  We discuss his film, his cast, and whether he's a fan of cinnamon cookies or German chocolate cake.

1.  Mr. Graizer you say in your press notes, "It's My Story".  Can you further expand on this sentence and give us where this 7 year journey started? 

It started 10 years ago, when I was contacted by woman I knew, telling me about the death of her husband. He was a friend of mine and I had always known that he was running a double life. Aside to his marriage and family, he was secretly meeting other men. I believed that when he died his wife found out. I wanted to make a film about her, dealing with this complex question, how can you grief someone who had lied to you all your life? I was moved by the emotional range of this situation. 

2.  The Cakemaker is your feature film debut.  Jumping from short to feature length what lessons or moments stand out to you? 

This wasn’t a normal process, even for a debut film it took way too much time because of the refusal of the funding. I think the two lessons that stand our are, first of all not to give up, just continue to fight for it if I feel it’s worth it; second is remember all through the struggle of realizing the film to be loyal to my own vision and listen to my own instincts, especially after so many years. As you grow tired of the story, that means you don’t need to do it. No. Keep sharp and focused and driven until the very last stage. 

3.  You reteamed with your DOR cinematographer Omri Aloni for this film.  Can you breakdown what y'all wanted to capture most visually.  What were the differences in filming the Berlin segments compared to the Israeli ones?  

Me and Omri  plan everything to the last frame, talk about every aspect – light, lens, closeness to the character – and yet during the shoot we are ready to expand and change things on the go. The main thing beyond it was to have an idea of every shot, every shot is about something else, but keep in mind in the end that there is one thing only which is above all, and that is the emotional impact. Therefore sadness, melancholy, beauty, laughter, light and happiness, these were our prospects, both in Berlin and Jerusalem. Two cities were having two different concept of light and colors, but in the film these are also broken into pieces and combine as the story does so.

4.  Can you talk about who came on board first in the cast?  Did you utilize rehearsals with the talent?  You utilize long close ups on your actors Tim and Sarah that showcase so much silent emotions, what made you go with this view of our leads?  I was blown away by the subtle but still powerful scenes we see with the young actor TOMER Ben Yahuda.  What was it like working with a child actor for such silent moments?

First I knew I wish to have Sarah Adler, as she is a great actress and as I found out during the work a wonderful person. She is often casted into melancholy sad roles and surely it was a part of her character, but I was curious about breaking it, giving her laughter and smiling and sense of lifeness and warmth, which she delivers beautiful in the film. And this was one of the reasons I wished to let the actors have their own time and space in the scenes, so things can grow and change and develop inside a single shot. I think it’s patient and respectful to them and I wanted to be like that with them. Same with Tomer, he is a wonder child, very sensitive and co operative. When I met him and told him what it means to act in a film, as he didn’t do it before, the first thing I said was “you need to be patient, film is mostly about waiting and being bored”, and then we did the ACTION I just asked him to stay in that mood. And he got it.

5. How much input did you have on Dominique Charpentier's music in the film?  I especially love the music that takes over whenever Thomas'  is baking!  

The music came from Dominique. I originally contacted him about using some of his work, and he offered to write original music, so I said “go ahead” and sent him the film. He wrote beautiful music very quickly, understanding the emotional material of the story. My input on his composition was mostly technical – more or less instruments, different rhythm, only that it will be different for the editing, but the compositions are the creation of his talented sensitive hands and character. Like baking a delicate petit four… And I think I understood very quickly. I played the piano like Thomas is baking a cake. 

6.  I was moved by how much struggle we see between keeping Kosher in the film.  The Moti character (Zohar was great!) is such a great figure for the conflict of religious and not-religious.  How important is it to you to ask difficult questions about sexuality, religion, and politics in your films?  I never have felt you specifically point a finger a certain way, but rather you just throw the questions out there.  

This is a film about people. About the personal experience of people. All the categories and ideas of religion, nationality and so, are only there so I can say "they are not important". They are there, they define the situations, the affect the plot, but eventually they are put aside. I did that to emphasize the idea that eventually it's about people. Even Moti, who's religious perspective makes him kind of intolerant, even he eventually helps Thomas, finding him an apartment, bringing him food. It's about being personal and emotional and being able to see beyond categories and definitions.  

7.  Can you talk about the wonderful premiere the film had at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival?  Any other film festivals stand out to you personally?  

It was overwhelming because in the first screening no body of us knew what to anticipate. Me and my producer arranged to bring the entire cast and crew and we found ourselves screening the film in front of 1300 people. So we were all terrified. When the film ended the audience stood up and clapped for 10 minutes. Nothing could be compared to that feeling – joy, and mostly relief, relief that people loved our film. Then I said to my crew, you know, even if the film from now on will be a complete failure, we still have this standing ovation that we can always remember… Happily the film became a huge success and was invited to almost 100 festivals, released in 15 countries, won 9 awards… I think I was more excited to see the reactions in festivals with a different audience, like in China, Korea, Copenhagen… Those were moments to cherish. 

8.  You have a background in editing.  What was it like working with Michel Oppenheim?  What were some of the most rewarding elements of your post production work?

Having worked as an editor, and having absolutely no budget to pay, I created the first cut myself. But that was obviously not possible and once we got more funding, I was lucky to find Michal. She took the film and put herself into it, on one hand bringing her sensitivity and personal background, on the other hand being attentive to my vision and the structure I had in mind. It was a very relaxed, calm, beautiful creative process and I am fortunate to have had this ability to let go and trust someone else, who understand cinema. Michal was fantastic and and this was surely a very rewarding process to work with her.

9.  I love Sandra Sade's tremendous cameo as HANNA.  Mother-son is an obvious element to the film.  Where is a lack of a father is obvious as well.  Thomas' character specifically mentions his left.  Oren dies and thus leaves his family alone and we never meet Oren/Moti's father.  Can you talk about what you were looking to say about parental relationships in this movie?  Also I was almost brought to tears when HANNA asks if Thomas wants to see Oren's room.  Can you talk about shooting that scene in particular.  It almost felt like recognition of their relationship from of all people Oren's mother!

First of all I wanted to kill the father. The father as an idea, of patriarchy, of control, I wanted to take him away and leave a place for the women and children to create something new. This was the ‘metaphor’ beyond the choice of taking away the fathers. That leads to the possibility of a woman like Hanna, a religious woman, to be the only one in the story that had empathy for Thomas’ loss. She understands him immediately and even though from a religious point of view she can’t really support the affair between the two men, she chooses to show her empathy towards it. There are some many things in that scene, about guilt, about cooking, about taking the place of the lost, and about silence. I love that scene. It is one of the cores of the story for me. Compassion and empathy. How much we lack these in our world today…

10.  Fun Questions – Are you a cinnamon cookie or German chocolate cake type of guy?  There is a red speedo that holds a powerful significance in the film.  This may seem weird but isn't there a red speedo in DOR?  Lastly, I'd love to know what is next for you?  

I’m on a diet guy! But if it wasn’t diet, I would go for chocolate and cinnamon together. Why not?

In DOR it’s a pair of underwear, not a speedo, but it looks the same. Glad you caught it. The idea beyond it has something to do with the Jewish laws of the woman’s period. There are days, when a woman is close to have her period, where she is not allowed to have sex. The red speedo is like the blood of the period, it’s a situation where the man can’t commit things as sex or passion or even being alive. In DOR it’s about the guilt, in THE CAKEMAKER it’s about the grief. Other than that, speedos are a sign of manhood because only real men wear them!

What’s next for me: I’m working on two scripts now, developing them, while looking for co operations and materials of other people’s scripts. I wish to direct movies written by other people – or television – as I have the complete desire to be on set again. So we see!

Don't miss out on this moving film that is out in Dallas at the Angelika Dallas.

The Cakemaker.

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