Radium is a short sci-fi film about survivors in post-apocalypse Israel who break in to the radiation quarantine zone of Tel Aviv. The movie has a unique perspective on living with the threat of violence. RevSF's Matt Cowger talked to director Daniel Fallik.
Matt Cowger: How did the film originate?
Daniel Fallik: The film was originally part of a television format class I took in my second year of film school. It was written as a single episode, which was intended as part of an entire series. I decided to test my skills and make an adaptation of the episode as a short movie. What originally began as a college exercise quickly became an enthralling project that I shot at the end of my second year in film school.
MC: You had some pretty barren landscapes and cityscapes. Where did you do most of your filming?
DF: All filming was done in southern Israel. The most complex landscape was the market place, which my crew had to construct from scratch using garbage we collected. Elad Orenstein, art director of Radium, did a fantastic job using junk to produce almost all of the set pieces seen in the movie.
MC: Divided loyalties seem to be a pretty major theme throughout the movie.
DF: Loyalty is a small part of the overall message of the film. Loyalties can often be blind. You see people that tend to blame everyone else for their every problem, because it's always easy to criticize someone else. People need to understand that many of their problems are born from themselves. In Radium, the quarantined city has no government, so there are those who rise to power and there are those who oppose.
In the film, people seem to stay close to those that are good to them, something we don't do quite as often in our everyday life. Whereas in life, there is a tendency to impress people we despise just to earn their respect. Having the wisdom to keep close those who are friendly and good to you is part of what I believe is important in life and being happy overall, and it's something neither Layla nor Raziel understands.
It's not a question of good guys and bad guys.
MC: Any plans to expand this into a full length film or do more with this universe?
DF: Since Radium was originally written as part of a television series, there is always a possibility that I'll try to push it in that direction. However, I have no plans of expanding the story. I've learned a lot from making this film and I'm moving on to different projects. There is a lot I still have to learn.
MC: Israel seems like kind of a natural for apocalyptic storytelling. Did that fit in to what you were trying to do or was it just coincidence?
DF: Iran gaining nuclear capabilities is part of the everyday conversation in Israel. Any Israeli post-apocalyptic story is quickly associated with that. I didn't wish to get into that specific political discussion, yet I can't shake it off when presenting this movie to anyone. It was no coincidence that Radium tells of walls which have been erected to keep the infected enclosed, yet the walls are never shown in the film.
This decision was my effort to present the parallel nature of life in modern-day Israel and futuristic Tel-Aviv. It's common knowledge for outsiders that Israel is at war, surrounded by many hostile enemies around its borders. However, when you actually set foot into the country, you realize that everyday life unfolds quite normally. People go about their business day in and day out, as if nothing is amiss.
This idea is very much the same in Radium's Tel-Aviv. The unseen walls directly influence the lives of the inhabitants living within them, yet people adapt and cope quite naturally to the reality of daily existence. This comparison to life in Israel is very important for me to make. The dangers of Radium hang silently over Tel-Aviv, as most of its citizens try to forget and ignore their presence, which is an effective (if misguided) coping mechanism.
Yet without warning, as the film's protagonist discovers, the situation explodes into horrific violence, leaving behind devastation and bloodshed that is both shocking and surreal. It is important to understand that surviving in Israel requires one to embrace the reality of its surroundings.
Radium tells this tale, using my love for the science fiction genre, while attempting to show a point of view that explains the complexities of the Israelis' mentality to the world. Israel's worst enemy is our own people, not our neighbors. The same message goes for our neighbors: Israel isn't the cause of their worst problems, it's the people within their own country.
MC: How did you go about casting for the film? You had a pretty capable group of actors.
DF: Casting was relatively basic, we searched for actors using the several agencies in Israel. Many were interested in the project and through auditions we found the people that were most fitting for the parts. The actors understood their parts and their place in the world I created. I gave each actor a dark secret that his character keeps, but which never gets revealed. Something the actors had to hold on to throughout the whole film, which gave each character an extra flavor.
MC:How did you do the CGI elements of the movie?
DF: All CGI was done in Adobe After Effects and Photoshop. Since the first day I began studying film and seeing as I'm a big fan of sci-fi and fantasy films, I had many ideas that required surreal visual elements.
Since there was hardly any budget in my projects, I had to use CGI to achieve some of my ideas. Seeing as there was no one around with even the basic knowledge of visual effects, I decided to teach myself how to create and work with CGI. All the digital effects were preplanned and set up properly during the shooting.
MC: I thought the Hebrew-with- subtitles thing was the way to go. Was there any temptation to try and do it in English?
DF: There is always temptation, for me, to do a movie in English. Especially if the movie is dialog heavy. Most people turn away from non-English films, and I do wish that as many people as possible would see my work. However, there were a few main problems with this.
First, the movie takes place in Israel, so it would not make sense for Israelis in Israel to not speak their native language. Second, finding actors that speak perfect English, without Israeli accents, really narrows down your casting options in Israel. Third, Radium is about Israel, and the people act as Israelis do.
If it were done in English, perhaps the idea of everything taking place in Tel-Aviv wouldn't fit at all.
MC: What are your upcoming projects?
DF: I'm working on a television pilot for a thriller-drama series. I can't say much about this project, but in short it's about a reality show alienating its contestants from the rest of the world. Other than that, I'm trying to make another short sci-fi / fantasy film. Perhaps an expansion of a short film I did on my first year of film school, which you can watch here.