Social conflicts in Israeli society

Sivan Levy (right) as an Israeli soldier with Evelyne Brochu as a Canadian doctor in Inch’Allah.

Acclaimed Israeli actress Sivan Levy is making her first trip to Australia this month to introduce two of her recent movies at the AICE Israeli Film Festival.

She stars in the Israeli film Six Acts and the French-Canadian co-production Inch'Allah.

"The films are important to me, firstly as a woman and as an Israeli," Levy tells The AJN.

"They deal with social conflicts that reveal complicated and unpleasant sides in Israel reality. I feel very proud of both films and their attempt to explore and deal with such challenging and sensitive subjects."

Six Acts is a low-budget independent film written by Rona Segal and directed by Jonathan Gurfinkel. Levy stars as Gilly, an Israeli teenage girl who uses her sexuality to be accepted by her friends. The role won her a best actress award at the Haifa Film Festival, and won best scriptwriter for Segal and best film debut for Gurfinkel.

"Gilly is a girl who is trying to become endeared by the group and does so through sexual encounters with them," she explains.

"It is a situation that countless young girls and boys, as well as women and men, find themselves in. It is mostly true during puberty, which is a very confusing age in terms of identity and sexuality, and in which self-esteem is fragile.

"I believe it's important that the message will be heard and the subject will be discussed publicly. And I think it is relevant not only to Israeli society, but everywhere.

"I am proud to be part of a production that allows such voices to be heard. The movie isn't easy to watch and the roles were not easy to play, but I believe that such issues should be talked about to prevent them from happening in the future."

Inch'allah is a film about a young Canadian doctor Chloe (Evelyne Brochu) who divides her time between Ramallah, where she works with the Red Crescent, and Jerusalem. As she learns more about life in the occupied territories, she is torn between the two sides of the conflict.

The award-winning film was directed by Anais Barbeau-Lavalette and filmed on location in Jordon, where the streets of Jerusalem and the separation fence were replicated.

"I play Ava, an Israeli soldier serving in a barrier between Israel and the West Bank. The movie revolves around the Canadian doctor who works in a refugee camp located beyond the separation wall in the Palestinian territory while living in Jerusalem.

"She is treating Rand, a pregnant Palestinian woman who lives in a refugee camp. The story is about a friendship triangle, an unrealistic situation in the Israeli reality."

Levy said she was thrilled to work with Barbeau-Lavalette and producers Kim McCraw and Luc Dery.

"Before travelling to Jordan I was a little anxious, as for me it was an unfamiliar Arab country and I never visited there before," she says.

"I had heard that there had been some hostility towards Israelis there in the past. The production team consisted of Lebanese, Jordanians, French Canadians and Israelis. It turned out that I had joined a wonderful, warm family which supported me throughout my time there.

"My main conclusion from being a part of this film is that through art and joint work, bridges can be built. And with them we can cross national conflicts and overcome fear and hate."

Levy says that the characters she plays in Six Acts and Inch'allah are women who are trying to fit into the behaviour and standards of the men around them

"I think it is important to understand and raise the awareness towards the pressures that young women are facing in such situations," she says.

"In preparation of the role of Ava I interviewed young women including former Israeli female soldiers who served in the Palestinian territories and tried to understand what they felt.

"So many times Israeli soldiers are portrayed as tough and cold. It was important to me that the audience will understand that soldiers are in fact 18-year-old children sent into a complicated situation that many times can be unreasonable.

"As an Israeli, it is important to me to show that behind most Israeli soldiers there are very young people who were put in impossible situations, that they also hurt and deal with great mental difficulties, and sometimes their honest intentions can't change the situation."

Levy studied music at the Alon School of Arts, graduating in 2007. Upon her graduation, Levy started her military service as a singer for the IDF Musical Ensemble. In 2009, upon completing her military service, she launched her film career with a role in Burning Mooki.

Levy has directed three films, starting with Cherchez La Femme, made when she was 20 with her best friend Eyal Bromberg.

"We were so lucky to have Amos Zlaiet, a pioneer photographer in the Israeli film industry, and other senior professionals to join us in our project," she says.

"They showed us the beauty of creation and the magnificent world of cinema. They were the ones who inspired me to continue walking this path."

Levy has appeared in many Israeli TV series. She is also a singer and is currently working on her first album. During her Australian visit she will perform with talented musician Yoav Rosenthal.