“I deal a lot with the way people look at other people,” says Keren Yedaya. The Israeli director’s full-length debut, Or (My Treasure) won the Camera d’Or at Cannes last year and screened at the New York Film Festival. Yedaya chose her leads—Ronit Elkabetz (the struggling single mom in Late Marriage) and the impish, Dana Ivgy—based on past performances. She got them together to establish if they could transmit desperation through eye contact (or the withholding of it).
“I really liked the way Dana looked at Ronit. It was with a kind of admiration,” explains Yedaya. When daughter Or slips into quasi-tricking, Ruthie’s direct looks at her daughter become less frequent. “She cannot see that her girl is a prostitute,” says Yedaya, who is involved in Israel’s anti-legalization movement. “If she could see that, she would know she had killed herself and killed her daughter.” This method is echoed in the film’s other relationships. Necessity dictates that Or and her male Palestinian co-worker stand back to back at separate sinks in a cramped space. Their physical closeness mimics checkpoint tensions and also carries a whiff of erotic frisson. Says the director, who is considering an Israeli-Palestinian romance next, “I think every time you put a Jewish woman with a Palestinian man, it is erotic, no?”