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10 Directors to Watch: Samuel Maoz Tackles Tricky Issues in Oscar-Shortlisted ‘Foxtrot’

Eight years after winning the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival with debut “Lebanon,” Maoz is stirring things up again with his second feature, Israel’s “Foxtrot,” which has been shortlisted for the Academy’s foreign-language Oscar.

As a youngster growing up in a small town outside of Tel Aviv, Maoz attended films with his father, who bought him an 8mm camera for his bar mitzvah. By the time of his mandatory military service, the young cinephile had already made dozens of amateur films.

Maoz’s stint in the IDF coincided with the 1982 war in Lebanon, a traumatizing experience that colors his two features.

But, Maoz says, “As far as I’m concerned, ‘Lebanon’ is not a war movie, and ‘Foxtrot’ is not a film about grief. I use extreme scenarios like war or grief to explore the human soul, to try to understand why we behave as we do — as individuals and, as a result, as a collective. I do not judge my characters. I try to understand them. And that, in my opinion, is what makes my cinema more social than political.”

After two male-centered films, Maoz’s next project will be in English, focusing on women: “I started to develop a script about a mother and daughter, a naive mother who falls into a world of corrupt men and is forced to become a predatory beast in order to save her daughter,” he says. “It’s an emotional story that can happen anywhere and communicate with all people. It contains elements of commercial drama like tension, action, intense pain and black humor, but it also contains a statement about basic human values such as human life, justice and compassion, which become relative concepts.”

While Maoz remains interested in classical cinema, he would also be open to creating a TV series. He says, “In our time loaded with multimedia, the format becomes less and less significant.”

Influences: Ingmar Bergman, Andrei Tarkovsky, Stanley Kubrick
Agents: ICM Partners
Lawyer: Craig Emanuel, Loeb & Loeb

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