Tikkun

Israel 2015

Synopsis

Haim-Aaron is a bright, Ultra-Orthodox religious scholar living in Jerusalem. His talents and devotion are envied by all.
One evening, following a self-imposed fast, Haim-Aaron collapses and loses consciousness. The paramedics announce his death, but his father takes over resuscitation efforts and, beyond all expectations, Haim-Aaron comes back to life.
After the accident, try as he might, Haim-Aaron remains apathetic to his studies. He feels overwhelmed by a sudden awakening of his body and suspects this is God testing him. He wonders if he should stray from the prescribed path and find a way to re-kindle his faith.
The father notices his son’s changed behavior and tries to forgive him. He is tormented by the fear of having crossed God’s will, the night he resuscitated his son.

Directors Statement

In everyday Hebrew, the word ‘Tikkun’ means improvement or rectification. However, the term ‘Tikkun’ has a more metaphysical meaning in Judaism. The Jewish faith supports the idea of reincarnation – the belief in a soul’s cycle or return to the world after biological death. ‘Tikkun’ refers to a soul returning to the living world in order to rectify an unresolved issue from its past life; to redeem itself before transitioning to the next world.

I started writing TIKKUN immediately after the premiere of my first feature film, THE WANDERER, at the Cannes IFF 2010. Within a month I had written a treatment that was accepted to Torino Film Lab. I had no doubt that my next film would also be set in the Jewish Ultra-Orthodox world. Even before I shot THE WANDERER, my vision was to create a trilogy based on a yeshiva scholar and his crisis of faith. Hence I was already mulling over the central themes of TIKKUN, back when I wrote THE WANDERER. Like the treatment, I wrote the first draft of the script extremely quickly. I always describe the relationship between THE WANDERER and TIKKUN as an escalation: The film TIKKUN is more extreme in every respect, from the technicalities of shooting in black and white, to its focus on the regimented lives of the Ultra-Orthodox. The protagonist, Haim-Aaron, lives in Me'a She'arim, one of the oldest Jewish neighbourhoods in Jerusalem. For the Hasidic population, life in Me'a She'arim – close to the site of the Holy Temple - is in itself holy. Haim-Aaron is a student in a yeshiva (religious college). He is regarded as an ‘illui’, or prodigy, a rare distinction given to yeshiva students for their extraordinary intelligence and insight. An illui is likely to become an important rabbi or community leader. TIKKUN is a story of life and death, set in a closed society with rigid, clear-cut rules. At the start of the film, the lead character is an outstanding member of his community. Later, he starts questioning its religious rules, driven by an urgent need to challenge and deepen his faith.

The casting process lasted a year and a half, due to the enormous challenge of finding the lead actor. I met with many talented actors but something was always lacking. The more I researched, the more I wondered how I would manage to bring a non-religious, professional actor anywhere close to the specific mannerisms and dialect of a devout Hasidic Jew. Eventually we scouted ex-yeshiva scholars who had left religion. We tried teaching them basic acting techniques in the hope of discovering natural talent. Aharon Traitel, a former Hasidic Jew, responded to our casting advert and after the first few auditions I remained unsure about him. Then, unlike the other candidates, Aharon started suggesting script amendments and guided me in my research on Ultra-Orthodox Jews. He also translated the relevant scenes into Yiddish. He had a hidden charm that I needed to bring to the surface and trust in order for him to take on the main role. It was a risk worth taking as, over time, Aharon became deeply entrenched in the project and came to understand all the minutia of the story.

As a director, my most valuable document is my shooting script, which I write alone. I need this kind of intimacy so I can write freely and unhampered, imagining the film down to the last detail. For me, this is a lengthy process, longer than scriptwriting, after which I embellish the script and the direction. In addition, when writing the shooting script, I usually scout potential locations. The first person I consult is my cinematographer, Shai Goldman, who, with his rich experience, is the person to fine-tune the shooting script, ahead of filming. TIKKUN had a scheduled 433 shots, 195 scenes, spread over 21 shooting days.

Biography

Avishai Sivan (born in 1977 in Israel) is a filmmaker, visual artist and published author.
Sivan’s first feature film, THE WANDERER, premiered at the Cannes IFF 2010, in the Directors’ Fortnight section. It won Best First Feature Film and Best Cinematography at the Jerusalem Film Festival 2010.
His video work VISA won Best Independent Film at the Cinema South Festival 2013.
Sivan’s documentary film, SOAP OPERA OF A FROZEN FILMMAKER, a seven-part video diary, won Best Experimental Film at the Jerusalem IFF 2007. In 2010, Sivan received the Israel Ministry of Culture’s Cinema Prize.
His first book, "Musings on Filmmaking whilst Cycling through the City", was published in 2011.
Sivan is currently developing his next feature film entitled THE PIRATE, a spy thriller based on the novel “Three Envelopes” by Nir Hezroni.
Sivan also exhibits artwork in galleries and museums in Israel and abroad.

Filmography:
2011 – THE UZBEK TRILOGY, doc.
2010 – THE WANDERER
2010 – RETURNEE, short
2000-2007 – SOAP OPERA OF A FROZEN FILMMAKER, doc. anthology
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Cast & Crew

Directed by : Avishai Sivan

Written by : Avishai Sivan

Produced by : Ronen Ben Tal, Avishai Sivan, Moshe Edery, Leon Edery

Director of Photography : Shai Goldman

Editor : Nili Feller

Production Design : Amir Yaron

Costume Design : Malky Fogel

Hair & Make up Artist : Orly Ronen

Sound Design : Aviv Aldema

Main Cast : Aharon Traitel (Haim-Aaron), Khalifa Natour (Haim-Aaron’s Father)

Nominations and Awards

  • EFA Selection 2016