Under the Table: Interview with Cookie Moonby Joy Bernard | 19.02.17
This week’s Telvivian Cinema pick is the film Under the Table, created by up-and-coming video artist Sara Laimon, who goes by the artistic pseudonym Cookie Moon.
Telavivian Cinema’s curator Joy Bernard had a chat with Cookie, who spoke about creation, religion, family ties and everything in between.
Hey there Cookie! I’d love for you to tell our readers more about you. Usually the films we feature on Telavivian Cinema are crafted by filmmakers and your background is quite different and very intriguing.
Cookie: “I’m Cookie Moon. I’m just finishing my final year of video art studies in the Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem, but I live in Tel Aviv. I am more drawn to video art and experimental cinema. I mainly film video but through this project, Under The Table, I experienced animation and am planning to continue this path. I like how easy it is, as I am dependent only on myself and my computer.
I also direct music videos, perform live VJ in concerts and parties and create digital collages which have been presented in a few exhibitions this last year. Basically, very visual with no constrictions.”
So Cookie, in your very aptly titled film Under the Table you chose to reveal an extremely intimate part of your personal life which most people do tend to sweep under the table, so to speak—the relationship between your father and yourself.
Did you originally intend to make this film accessible to others, or was it a personal project you were working on for yourself?
While it’s no secret that a lot of artists use their own life as the basis for their creation, few actually openly reveal the innermost private aspects. Do you usually draw inspiration from your personal relationships when you approach your artwork? Would you define it as a sort of brave leap of faith you had to make in this particular project?
Cookie: “The film was a final project at school, I created it in the third year of my studies.
It was made in school context, but I always planned to make it accessible. I think that once a personal project is complete, it heals you in a way, and then it’s much easier to let it go, and make it accessible for others to see.
It was obvious to me, as most of my projects are personal. I draw inspiration from many things. They don’t always have to be deep and revealing, but they do have to come out of my world. I feel that by now, every story has been already told. So I feel the only thing I have that is uniquely mine is me, my life, my view and my experiences. This specific project was very revealing, and a difficult process to make it this way. I don’t know if I’d call it brave, but it for sure wasn’t easy.”
“Disappointing my dad would be the end of the world”, you say in your film and add that “there are so many weights I have to keep balanced.”
Do you think that there was a therapeutic element to this film? Do you feel like it has helped you gain a more profound sense of introspection?
Cookie: “The process started when my father and myself started studying together. We would meet alone once a week and share this intimate moment of learning together, and that definitely brought us closer—having a common interest, and learning from my dad’s expertise.
While working on the film I had to find anecdotes that fit the theme of the day, and I went through an emotional journey of rediscovering our relationship, trying to remember these scenes.
Re-visiting these moments and putting them together for the world to see was in itself a form of acceptance. It was a very strengthening and therapeutic process for the both of us.
I find that many times creating something about a subject is much easier than discussing it. There are no interruptions and there is much more truth, so we could hear each other much clearly.
I used my father’s expertise as a resource to develop mine, which I think is a beautiful way to collaborate. Currently we are working on a new project together- connecting my artistic aesthetic to his own unique interpretations of Torah, so stay tuned.”
You address hardships in your own unique language, which comes off as a blend between the poetic and the humorous. Statements such as “Joan started making the Cholent. It wasn’t good, so I stopped coming,” or “I told my father I was not religious on a yellow post-it note,” are heartbreaking but also made me smile.
Do you find yourself driven by humor in your creation?
Cookie: “I find humor to be a great edge and a wonderful aspect in pretty much everything, if used wisely. The only thing I now find funny about these sentences is how harshly real they are, how precise in my life and how ridiculous I find it to be, for example, that I told my father this heartbreaking news on a post-it note. It’s easy to laugh about things once they’ve been accepted.”
Please share with me the artistic process that went into the creations of this film—did you make it all by yourself? Please also tell me about the soundtrack, it is so unique.
Cookie: “I created the whole film myself. I drew or found illustrations and then digitally put them together, animating and manipulating them into what they are now. I never studied animation so I had to come up with alternative techniques using after effects. I loved how intimate the process was, it was the first time I was the only crew member in a serious project. Visualizing the scenes into metaphorical, abstract images was difficult, and with some of them I did it the other way round—I composed the day of creation, and then found a story about us to tell that fit the box.
The soundtrack is made out of a few songs by the amazing musical group D.Å.R.F.D.H.S. which l found. This music is so emotional and powerful, and I felt it would work very well for my film. I played and edited them a bit, and then put together.”
Your film illustrates the rapport between yourself and your father and the bond you share, which mostly relies on the differences between the two of you and less on the similarities. You show how you felt alienated from him because of those differences (he is an ultra-Orthodox practitioner of Judaism, you less so) and how you eventually used those differences as a tool to bring you both closer. In a way, you have conceded to him by taking on joint Torah studies.
Your moving gesture doesn’t end there—you chose to create a film about this relationship, and rooted it in the terminology he is most connected to-the story of Genesis in the bible.
Do you feel that it is a personal compromise you had to make, or do you not view it as a compromise at all but rather as a necessary gesture?
Cookie: “This film is not a compromise, it’s the opposite of that—it’s an opportunity I grabbed with both hands. While my father is very religious, he is also a very open minded and accepting person. Studying Genesis with him was a privilege, and being able to discuss our relationship through this analogy was an exciting and uplifting experience. It was the perfect way to describe our relationship—something so complex and diverse that succeeds to create something so whole.
I am very intrigued by the word ‘Create’, and have made several films and collages about the world’s creation, trying to find the similarities between the creation of art and the creation of the world. That’s why I think the film worked out. The stories of Genesis are about creation, which we can all relate to. They are not about being religious, or secular, but about the birth of a moment.”
In the very beginning of the film, you tell viewers that your father “is not an ordinary guy,” sharing that every Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday commonly referred to as the festival of lights, he likes to take pictures of candles that come out all blurry.
In a way you’re describing how quite like you, you father’s experience of life and his documentation of life is quite unique. Do you feel like his view of the world, in that sense, has shaped your approach to art?
Cookie: “My father has definitely shaped my approach to art, and to many other things. While being a very religious man, he is also a very sensitive, wise and open minded man and father, who has a shocking amount of knowledge about pretty much everything, in particular Keith Jarrett’s music and Stanley Kubrick films.”
Relationships between parents and children are such a tricky topic to begin with, not to mention as the subject of an artistic endeavor.
I often feel that when artists try to depict that wordless, deeply emotional and tumultuous term otherwise known as ‘family’ they either fail at doing it convincingly enough, or they fall into the traps of cliche and make yet another version of the Oedipal story about how their entire emotional baggage is the result of their childhood and the fault of their upbringing.
In that sense, I feel like your film is such a gentle and moving tribute, and succeeds where so many others have failed. Did you have that balance in mind when you were working on it?
Cookie: “The film in its essence is my attempt to show the unique and enriching relationship I have with my father, and not at all point an accusatory finger at him. The difference to me is thinking who this film is aimed at. While I did plan to make this film public, I created it for myself, and wasn’t thinking of the viewer. Maybe if you take the viewer in mind, you can get confused in the mixed strategies and messages you want to put out, and forget about its pure truth.
I mostly feared revealing myself so much. I wanted to keep my thoughts to myself and also worried about my father’s reaction, but I felt that the unconvincing aspect wouldn’t arise because I chose to animate abstract scenes rather than filming me and my father, and told our whole life story in a very delicate and simple way. Not a lot has to be said in order to get the whole picture.”
What’s the next project you’re working on? What does the future have in store?
Cookie: “Very soon I will be releasing my new short film SPIKE, which I directed with my brother Middleskyboom. It’s a short film about teenage love and illness, and tries to find what truth really means. I am also working on my final project for Bezalel, which is a staged yet very personal experimental film holding the mixture of a beautiful aesthetic and an ugly separation.”
To follow Cookie’s work, visit her website.
Watch Under the Table 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