Saturday, September 26, 2009

'Schizoid' Zion is fodder for Keret's edgy stories and films

Etgar Keret, the Israeli writer and filmmaker behind the claymation flick $9.99, can't help point out the paradoxes of his country.

Over breakfast at a cafe on Dizengoff Street, a leafy avenue in central Tel Aviv, Keret tells journalist Jason Koutsoukis

"It's about my dentist. For 340 days of the year he is a tofu-eating vegetarian who drives a hybrid car and takes care of people's teeth. The other 25 days of the year, he kills people."

Keret's dentist is a sniper in the Israeli army, and, like most Israeli men, he is called up once a year for active reserve duty.

"He has six confirmed kills to his name," says Keret. "He hates it, but this is such an Israeli thing. To be caught between the perfect left-wing, secular lifestyle on one side, and our very aggressive, militaristic culture on the other."

Keret points to the patrons sitting around us.

"It's not so peculiar here that people know someone who has been killed violently, or who have killed someone themselves.

''Yet we have one of the best operas in the world and 30 per cent of Israelis are art-loving theatregoers. This is a schizophrenic country."

Israel, Keret claims, has the same logic as a reality show, with people from different backgrounds and nationalities jammed together in a tiny slice of territory in a situation of extreme danger with everything to gain and everything to lose.

"It's a difficult place to live," admits Keret, smiling broadly, "but such a great place to write about."

Hat tip to the Brisbane Times for this profile of an outspoken filmmaker and writer.

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