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    SKIN SHORT FILM A film by Guy Nattiv, Jaime Ray Newman and Sharon Maymon

    Oscar-Nominated Israeli Film Director: 'I Don't Feel Safe in the World'

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    “Skin”, a short film by Israeli director Guy Nattiv, has been nominated for an Oscar. The film tells the story of a racially motivated gang war set in the US that starts after a black man smiles at a ten-year-old white boy across a checkout aisle in a small supermarket. Mr. Nattiv spoke to Sputnik about the film's important message.

    Sputnik: The movie tells the story of a skinhead who was raised in a small blue-collar town in the US and how he came to reject his old beliefs. Can you tell us how this idea for the film came about?

    Guy Nattiv: I was looking at an article, and this happened in the US, about a white neo-Nazi father who taught his son how to shoot guns and how to hate people, because the father was the head of a clan, and he taught his son how to be aggressive. And then he came back home one night, he was drunk and his son thought it's an African-American guy who came into the house and he took the father's gun, and he shot his father to death because his father taught him how to be racist and how to be aggressive and violent. The kid was only 12 years old.

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    I read it and I was shocked, and I just decided to do something with this story. Now my friend from Israel, who is a screenwriter, his name is Sharon Maymon, also had an idea about something like this and we decided to write it together.
    This incident, it's one incident in America, but it reflects what we hear and I heard over time about America, about the fact that there is more and more violence and racism, and I wanted to talk about what happened in American and the concept that is in the Jewish Bible where there's a saying that 'when parents eat bad fruit the kids are spoiled', which means if your parents teach you how to hate then the kids will be the same and will hate you as kids, so you are going to suffer from how you taught your kids to hate.

    It's a cycle of violence, it's like generation after generation if you teach your kids hate you're going to suffer from it as well, and that's what "Skin" is all about. "Skin" is about fathers and sons, parents and kids, and how the first thing we need to make sure… is about educating our kids to love and not to hate.

    Sputnik: I think from the story that you told about your movie, it's close to the movie American History X with a lot of parallels in the synopsis. What are your expectations now, after the movie was nominated for an Oscar, do you think it can win?

    Guy Nattiv: It's a big surprise and it was a dream for me as a kid to be nominated and from now on whatever happens happens. I truly believe that this film should get the platform that it needs in order for people to see it. I hope that it will come to Russia and to Moscow and we present it in Russian and I hope young people, the kids and teenagers will see it in schools. So you can show people the lessons, and what's right and wrong.

    Sputnik: But don't you think that over the last couple of years, Oscars have become quite politicised, so quite a lot of movies which are left-wing, liberal ones, are usually nominated. How do you feel about this? They certainly prefer movies with liberal agenda I would say, what do you think?

    Guy Nattiv: I'm really happy that liberal films are getting platforms that are pro peace and bring the voice that no one gives. I think that all the films that are nominated are unique and give the voice to people that would never get the voice. You have a film about a Mexican woman that empowers women and it's amazing. You have a film about a gay singer, who's Freddie Mercury, which is an amazing story and very important one to show. You have a film about a black policeman, a story that gives a voice to an African-American in the 70s and how they fought the KKK. You have a film about a love story between two people in America.

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    I think all the films and very important to show and I think that America has a lot of courage to give a voice to films that are critical sometimes, that are important to show.

    I think it's wonderful that the Oscars are very open to show these films and to give a voice to non-whites. You have Mexicans and African-Americans and a lot of people that didn't have a voice a few years ago. Now they will be at the Oscars and it gives a platform for everyone. And the fact that "Roma" is a Mexican film and even the Russian film that was nominated for an Oscar, "Leviathan" [2014] I thought it was a great movie because it was very critical and gave a voice and I love this director, I thought he's an amazing director [Andrey Zvyagintsev]. I mean "The Return" is one of my favourite films.

    So, I have no problem with liberal films, I'm a liberal and I truly believe in open discussion and talk about stuff that's not comfortable, because movies are made to provoke and to open discussion, and give voice to people that usually don't have a voice, otherwise if you make the same movies, it's boring.

    Sputnik: In your film you said that you no longer feel safe in America, in today's America, why is that?

    Guy Nattiv: Well I don't feel safe in the world. I think that the world has become more racist, the world has become more crazy and you have a lot of in Europe, in Hungary, the extreme right-wing that's rising. You know my grandparents after the Holocaust everybody knew that America is a safe haven for Jews, even in the 80s and 90s I grew up with a sense that America is the safest place after Israel for Jews. Today, what's going on in Charlottesville and the [Pittsburgh] synagogue assassination and the shooting and we see that after Trump came to power all the right-wing groups got stronger.

    I feel less safe than I used to feel in the 90s and in 2000, but I think it's a world thing, it's a world way right now, racism and hate, that you can see here. And also gun control, anybody can take a gun here and shoot people here, so it's a problem. So I don't feel safe like my parents and grandparents felt safe back then.

    Sputnik: Speaking about the Trump administration, I think it's clear today, in 2019, that the Trump administration has made some strong supportive comments towards Israel, especially Benjamin Netanyahu, during that last year. So do you feel like there is some kind of contradiction between the Trump administration and their policy towards Israel, and maybe like you said before the rise of the far-right?

    Guy Nattiv: Look I think the Trump administration is obviously helping Israel protect itself, which is a good thing, but a lot of right-wing groups support Trump in America, which is a bad thing.

    And I think that he needs to come and say clearly that he's not supported by these groups and he thinks it is a bad thing and I think he needs to be more firm about acting against those illegal groups that jeopardize America. I think, yes, he is doing a good thing by protecting Israel but I also think eventually, Trump is doing a bad thing by supporting these groups and I think he needs to act more firmly against them.

    Sputnik: It's been four years since you moved to the United States. Why did you decide to move there and what were you expectations?

    Guy Nattiv: I chose to move to the States because of love, I fell in love with an American woman and I basically had a relationship with an American-Jewish girl and now we're married with a baby, and I was basically moving for love. I think America is a great place, it is still the biggest democratic free country in the world and I think there's a lot of good things in America and my expectations first was to be with my wife and have a family, but also to do what I did in my country, and be a filmmaker. LA is the best place in the world to be a filmmaker and to continue my creative role.

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    So I'm grateful for being in a country that allows me to speak freely and this is something what my country, Israel, has a problem with right now because according to law, you can't get grants from the government in Israel if it's something that has criticism towards the country, so it's a problem. Here you can do anything you want, you can say whatever you want, it's a free country, it's still a free country. In israel we don't have that luxury anymore because the government put laws on grants.

    Sputnik: In your interview with the Haaretz Israeli newspaper you said that Israel was a microcosm of the United States, so basically are you saying that you would not feel safe in Israel today? Are there some common things going on between the United States society and Israeli society?

    Guy Nattiv: No, I do feel safe in Israel because obviously we have a great army and the security is [at a] really high level in Israel and I do feel safe in Israel, I just feel that it's not easy being an immigrant in the US, it's not easy because there's a lot of people that don't want you in this country, especially look [at] what's happening at border right now, I think it's a world problem. In Europe it's also a problem, but I do feel like the one safe place for a Jew is Israel, because this is a Jewish country and it's basically a country that was supposed to be a Jewish state.

    So I think that makes me feel safe. And as kid by the way I grew up with war, I heard a lot of explosions, a lot of war, but I still felt that this country is protecting me as an Israeli because our army is very strong. But, yes, you can definitely say that Israel is a microcosm of America because this is [they are] our ally. I grew up with American films, with American culture, I have a family in the US, so I grew up admiring America, in the 80s and 90s America was the place that everybody wanted to move to and it is still today, but today you feel that the racism and violence is a big problem in the States.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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