STARBURST: What did you want to achieve by mixing science and religion in this film?
Paz brothers and Shaked Berenson (the Jeruzalem Team): We’re still working it out!
It’s a fantasy movie, it’s not a realistic movie. We wanted to deal with the city. The city’s Jerusalem. It’s such a mystical place. It’s so intense to be there, you know, with Jews and Arabs and everybody. You walk in the streets and the atmosphere is fascinating for us. We live in Tel Aviv. We don’t live in. Jerusalem. When we go to the old city we feel like tourists ourselves because it is so different from what we know and when you walk the streets of Jerusalem you just feel history all around you – it’s a city that stands for 3,000 years.
For so many years, we thought there are so many apocalyptic movies, but nobody ever thought the most perfect set up for the apocalypse. I’m not talking about World War Z, which is a very big Hollywood-style Jerusalem where you see the choppers go up above the city and you see the ocean and there’s no ocean. A lot of the Israelis saw this and laughed because it’s not really Jerusalem. We wanted to make the roughness of the city real realistic. It’s the underground city of Jerusalem.
As you said in the Q&A, this is filmed on location rather than in a studio. How did you feel about filming in religious places that people actually use for religious purposes?
It’s very intense. It’s a very delicate job. You know, low profile. We didn’t have any permits for these locations.
Stop saying that interviews.
It’s not the producer saying it.
The producer is telling us it’s okay.
We had permission to shoot a documentary actually, but not a drama. For us it was amazing as we didn’t need to fake anything. We were shooting in the most holiest places there are. Everything was authentic. It was great production values all around us.
Did you have any ethical concerns about using their space for a horror film?
Obviously we tried to approach this movie with as much respect as we could for religious people. We are not religious people but we obviously respect whoever believes in it… whatever… and we tried to do it really delicate – we’re not mocking anyone. It’s not a movie about a religion, it’s a movie about a sacred place.
We do not think we offended anyone. The idea is global. It’s what happens if?
When the apocalypse starts it doesn‘t matter if you’re Jewish…
It’s a human story. It uses folklore and mystical elements for our interpretation from Christianity, Judaism and Islam but it’s a story about people surviving.
Did you talk to the locals while you were there?
We felt we were the locals. In life you grow up with all kinds of types of people. You go on the army duty, 2 years for women, three years for men. You meet all religions, low class and high class. We know how they talk and how they think. We see ourselves as locals. As them.
So we’re all in it together, then?
I came out of it thinking I probably didn’t understand it in the way other people would. Do you consider the ending to be positive or negative?
That’s a nice way of looking at it.
Obviously it’s not a happy ending..
Well, the apocalypse starts but what’s the next level of the apocalypse? Maybe a new level of something. Maybe a new change in the world. Maybe for the sequel we will have what happened the day after the apocalypse.
Well, we actually have a script about that, right?
About what happens on the second day as that’s an interesting thought, actually. Most movies deal with the first day, but it’s what happens on the second day. What happened a week later what happened a month after on.
That’s what I thought. The characters within the film have been proved right apparently against the odds.
We are still digesting it.
Yes, exactly. We were working on it for years.
Did you have to pick and choose which stands of the different faiths you’d use to show the apocalypse or was it a general vision of apocalypse?
We wanted the creatures to be more like demons. This is why they had the wings and if you look at the Bible and old scriptures you see the dark angels and it comes in all kind of shapes.
We wanted to find our own local interpretation of the creatures and the zombies. We say it in the movie actually, every religion has it but some people call it in a different language. It’s based on the scriptures. The prophesy of the dry bones is very famous and the funny thing is it happens in a very specific place in Jerusalem . The first time we screened the movie was for them. It was the place where the Bible says the valley and is where the apocalypse starts.
Hell. Hell has gone through different evolution as Hell is not like necessarily a bad red, demony kind of thing that is, maybe, now the image in today’s pop culture. In Judaism they bury the dead. They don’t cremate because the resurrection comes – it’s very Tim Burton – the bones are going to roll up the mountain and they’re going to resurrect over there. Jerusalem is basically one big cemetery because everyone wants to be the closest to the resurrection! That’s my Jewish education. I think Christianity, some branches of Christianity, also have beliefs in keeping with Jerusalem being the place of the resurrection and Jesus coming back and also with Islam they have the whole thing with the mount of the rock. All of the religions have some sort of resurrection ideas coming from that place. The vision was already there.
And zombies are resurrection – there is an interpretation of them.
You know, not just slow moving.
Shaun of the Dead.
That’s actually a really clever twist because everyone in the horror genre audience is rooting partly for the zombie and they’re going to buy into that.
For me, watching movies like Troll Hunter is interesting. The use of local folklore - not religion but folklore - for me personally is very interesting.
I agree. A film called Marianne came out in Sweden a few years ago that incorporated the idea of the folkloric Mare with sleep paralysis and that’s what made it so powerful. It integrates with the local culture and makes it seem more real.
The older the story, the better it does it.