Film

Sex Doll: Interview with Hadas Ben Aroya

by Joy Bernard | 27.04.16

Young Tamar experiences a surprising sexual awakening. In an attempt to realize her new-found passions, she gets lost between her world of barbie dolls and games to the adult world. We spoke to director Hadas Ben Aroya and got a glimpse into the making of this touching, colorful initiation story.

Hi Hadas! Please tell our readers a bit about yourself and your work.

Hadas: “I’m a director and screenwriter. I studied at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Film and Television and as a final project, I directed a full-length film. It was my first feature and it was called: People Who Are Not Me (in Hebrew- אנשים שהם לא אני). I also acted in this film. Right now I’m occupied with the film’s distribution. At the moment, I’m writing two new scripts and edit videos for a living.”

Tamar, the film’s protagonist, is an endearing character that evokes embarrassment and empathy in the viewers and can be very easily identified with in the many different ways in which she tries to deal with the sexual awakening that she’s experiencing. Her age isn’t obvious and the tacky decor (amazing, so accurate!) also makes it difficult for the viewers to place her. No actual parental supervision or true friends can be seen in this film. Who is Tamar? A young girl? An adolescent? What kind of story were you aiming to tell through her?

Hadas: “Tamar is a young girl, who looks and acts like part girl part woman, which is, generally, the film’s main theme. It was important for me to disconnect Tamar from the context of place and time and create a different conscious world that would look and feel distinctly unlike others. I wanted to disconnect Tamar from any context and create this surrealistic and colorful world that was reminiscent of a doll’s house where Tamar enters all of these comic situations. I knew that this would make for a sharper and more intense transition into the realistic and cruel world; plot-wise and as far as the cinematic expression goes.”

I feel like the Israeli and the international Cinema world don’t offer a variety of creations that deal with the female sexual identity, especially in its developmental stages. I found your film to be moving exactly because of that- it deals with such honesty, heartwarming humor and directness with that elusive, frustrating and often repressed stage when the sexual identity awakens but doesn’t always find an adequate expression. Why did you want to tell this story? What gave you the inspiration for that?

Hadas: “Actually, there are a lot of films that I like which deal with the female sexuality, and it’s a subcategory that I love. I think that the female sexuality in the initial stages of its development is fascinating because on the one hand, young girls feel very sexual and discover a lot of strong urges and passions, but on the other hand they’re still clumsy and the boys their age haven’t reached the same stage yet, so they’re kind of neither here nor there. That’s the state I wanted to convey in my film.

When I made the film I was very influenced by Catherine Breillat and Todd Solondz, two filmmakers who dealt with similar subjects but in a very different way. My film is very amusing and derives a lot of inspiration from pop culture, but at the same time it deals with a very heavy subject and includes serious scenes, so I think that in a way, it’s a result of how my inspirations and tastes came together.”

Tamar’s passion is expressed in the film through the process of her falling in love with her dance teacher. She attempts, rather childishly, to seduce him and when she fails to receive the attention that she wished for, she takes out her rage and frustration on two young boys who attend the dance class with her. The interaction with them and her attempt to fulfill her passions with them fail too, and even make them look at her in a new and negative light. What were you implying there? It’s interesting to think how a different, male character would have been received had it tried, no matter the callous manner, to fulfill its desires.

Hadas: “Like I stated previously, the idea was for Tamar to be neither here nor there- she’s trapped in an in-between kind of stage. She’s far too evolved for boys her age but is pathetically immature in the interaction with her teacher, so she has no place where she can let her new-found sexual energy run wild and that’s very frustrating to her. She’s also very young, so she’s not very self-aware and doesn’t have limits. Her teacher doesn’t give in to her attempts to seduce him, and teaches her a lesson, although we do get a sense that it’s not easy for him to let her down. Unfortunately, in the real world, a lot of other male characters would not have been able to withstand this temptation, but that’s a whole other story…”

What statement did you want to make? Do you feel like you succeeded in making it?

Hadas: “I don’t really deal with statements. I make films because there are things that I can’t express with words, and that’s why I also hate trying to explain my films. Be it as it may, that was my first film and I learned a lot from it, and I love it with its flaws. I also got to meet the exceptionally talented Joy Rieger, who plays Tamar in the film, and that was an accomplishment in itself. I even named the protagonist in People Who Are Not Me after her.”

What are your future plans? What’s next?

Hadas: “I hope that my new feature will be received warmly because I’m so anxious. Beyond that, I want to make films and a lot of them. I want to do what Woody Allen does (he makes a film every year) even though it might mean that one out of every five films I make will be amazing and the rest will be just good or OK.”

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Watch Sex Doll 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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