Martha Must Fly

by Joy Bernard | 31.03.16

Young, beautiful and agonized Martha (portrayed by Israeli actress and singer Ania Bukstein) is a foreign worker who looks after a dying, elderly lady who refuses to accept her own impending death.
Feeling trapped in her tedious and heart-breaking vocation, she finds refuge in the figments of her imagination and creates a made-up world in her thoughts. But when Martha decides to set herself free, she discovers that even in the real world, freedom comes at a price.  

We sat down with director Ma’ayan Rypp to learn more about the fascinating tale she weaved.

Hi Ma’ayan, please introduce yourself to Telavivian’s readers.

Ma’ayan: “I, myself, am a Telavivian through and through. I finished my B.F.A in Film at Tel Aviv University. In recent years I’ve been doing artistic design for commercials and films.
‘Martha Must Fly’ was my final project at university and was produced with the support of the Rabinovitch Foundation and the Gesher Foundation. My lead actress is the talented singer and actress Ania Bukstein.
The film was first screened in 2011 at the Cannes Film Festival as part of the Cinefondation competition. It also won the “Promising Filmmaker” award at the Rehovot Women’s Festival that year. The film went on to be screened at other festivals around the world (including the Jerusalem Film Festival) and won awards such as “Best Actress” and “Audiences’ Favorite”.
Another film I made during my studies called “Any Little Thing” and starring singer Efrat Gosh was also screened at important festivals such as Palm Springs Festival and Raindance Film Festival.
I recently returned from Cannes Festival’s residency program in Paris, where I wrote my first feature called “The Other Widow” that was also granted the support of the Rabinovitch Foundation in Israel.”

Director Ma’ayan Rypp

Why did you decide to make a film whose protagonist is a foreign worker, and especially one that works in a profession that’s considered tough and overlooked in the Israeli society?

Ma’ayan: “I was inspired to write the film after reading a short story by Dylan Thomas. He wrote about a foreign worker who treats an old woman who simply never dies. When I read the story it was like a kick in the gut, I felt her [the foreign worker] pain and her longing. I was very drawn to it artistically and wanted to try to express this pain, to try to create the very deterministic and endless feeling of being trapped. The protagonist wants to break free and it’s clear that she has no chance- she’s trapped inside her fate.
I got to Anat Gafni and she helped me turn all of the ideas that the story evoked into one coherent script. Today she’s my partner in the screenplay for my first feature.”

How did you develop Martha’s world of imaginations? What was the inspiration for that?

Ma’ayan: “The opposite of being trapped is levitating- rising above everything. The film opens with Martha’s biggest nightmare- the fear of staying  forever in that house with the old lady and the young boy and making tea for them.
Her dream is to “fly” away from there: that’s her fantasy, it’s like a secret Martha and the viewers share. The other characters in the film have no clue what it is that she’s doing when she closes her eyes and lifts her arms up.
Her inability to accomplish this makes her hate and try to damage everything that can fly, like flies and birds. Her obstacles and dreams are what influenced me. All I had to do was take it one step further, exaggerate it and imagine what it would look like.”

The film really exudes a strong feeling of suffocation, a certain kind of claustrophobia most of us can relate to: we all feel trapped sometimes at our workplace, in our homes, in our relationships… Why did you choose to express this feeling through the interaction between Martha and the old lady she’s taking care of?

Ma’ayan: “I tried to convey this feeling in every possible way: through the characters, the sound, the images. The need to trap her followed every one of my artistic choices. Mosh Mishali (the cinematographer) and myself cultivated a concept in which Martha is at the darkened house and the light comes from outside. Editing-wise, the shots are really long, endless. The sound was also an attempt to amplify this feeling: there are a lot of dominant sounds around the house of pigeons flapping their wings and cooing, and they intensify and become more and more disturbing as the film progresses.
This becomes different when we enter Martha’s inner world- in flight- there the language changes and we follow her step by step, her eyes close, her hands are raised, her legs lift off the ground until she flies. We’re there with her entirely, inside her inner world, and there the music comes from the outside- like from a distant memory, and it’s different from the rest of the sounds in the film.
To me, that’s cinema’s role: a good book can express in words the deepest feeling and so a movie can express that same feeling through images and sounds, in the place where words end.”

What was the message that you wanted to convey to the viewers? What kind of feelings did you want them to walk away with?
Ma’ayan: “I think that every viewer will be probably walk away with his/her own interpretation. In all honesty, I just wanted to step up to this artistic challenge and experiment with this as a director- I wanted to convey an emotion. I think that my message is that as creators and artists, we shouldn’t be afraid of going against the rules of storytelling, you have to go with your gut feeling. I felt this film in my gut, and even though I got all sorts of critique I didn’t give up, I followed my most basic instinct until it became a matter of survival- this film was going to happen no matter what, and even if it would turn out to be a flop I still know that I tried to bring my vision to life.
The film’s success is something I never dared dream would happen. I didn’t even think about it while I was making it and as soon as it was complete it was no longer mine- it belongs to all of the people I collaborated with, to all of the viewers. The film already has a life of its own and is travelling the world without me. On my part, I’ve already moved on- I just had to release it and put it out in the world.”


Watch ‘Martha Must Fly’ on Telavivian Cinema.

Telavivian Cinema is a project which will unveil work of cinematic art crafted by local directors.

From animation to drama to comedy, Telavivian short films will be streamed weekly and accompanied by our conversations with the their talented makers. Make sure you stay tuned for the screenings, as the films featured in the magazine will change on a weekly basis.

Telavivian Cinema is curated by Joy Bernard.


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