Review Fix chats with Mayan Engelman and Eliran Peled, who discuss their new film, Cinema Rex.
About Mayan Engelman:
Award winning director and art director Mayan Engelman is an Independent Visual Development artist who specializes in Character Design and Concept Art for Animation. She received her Animation B.F.A from Bezalel (Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem). Her graduation film The Cabinet Decision screened at Annecy International Animated Film Festival 2015 and many other film festivals. Currently, Mayan is working for Netflix, creating Visual Development for an unannounced animated feature. Mayan served in Cinema Rex as also the art director and animation director.
About Eliran Peled:
Award winning director and producer Eliran Peled has directed 14 shorts including Happy Birthday Mr.Brown (2018) which screened in over 40 festivals, was a finalist in the Open Toronto Festival 2019 and won the Best Short Award at the West Hollywood Awards 2018. Peled is the youngest director ever in Israel to receive the main government fund to direct his first feature film Euphoria-Victory Year. Currently, he is a producer on the Israeli TV show Dear Diary and in pre-production for a new documentary TV series. He is also working as a producer and content developer in the Israeli production company Sumayoko, which produced the Cannes Series winning show On The Spectrum. Eliran served in Cinema Rex as also writer and producer.
Review Fix: Why is the topic of this film important today?
Eliran: I believe that the story of “Cinema Rex” will always be relevant, but in time like this- that the division is so apparent I think that it is vital to produce family content about the power of communication, and the ability of Cinema to unite.
Mayan:In the micro aspect, our story takes place in Jerusalem, which has been a divided city since forever.
For me, Rex’s story is a massive point in our national history that should have its spot of shine, and a great example, coexistence is possible, even in the most divided city in the world.
In the macro aspect, Racism and hatred are an international disease that has lived among us forever, so I feel that Rex story should tell everywhere, and hopefully inspire and encourage children around the world.
Review Fix: What inspired this film?
Eliran: “Cinema Rex” was a real place the existed in Jerusalem at the ’30s and ’40s, so the work on the film started from the research about the real place. Lately, when we pitch the film, we describe it as A family picture that combines the nostalgia of “Cinema Paradiso” and the magic of “Mary Poppins” in a Middle Eastern setting.
Review Fix: Why was ‘Cinema Rex’ a perfect title for this short?
Eliran: It took us a lot of time to find the right title, the working title of the film was “Falling with Rex”, and when we started to pitch to project, we understood it’s quite problematic. The Israeli title is “Falling in love with Rex” Wich sound’s a lot better in Hebrew. After a lot of different titles tested we understood that “Cinema Rex” Is the best international title for our film.
Review Fix: How difficult was this film to put together?
Eliran: It was quite hard, 14 months of production, and an additional two and a half years to finance the project and for development work .
Mayan: It was a long journey, and we didn’t want to compromise budget-wise. So it was tough but satisfying to do it the way we believed.
Review Fix: How have the audiences been reacting to Cinema Rex?
Mayan: So far the reactions are truly moving for us, since the screening at Annecy we got a lot of really great feedback. After all these years of hard work, it is genuinely moving,
Review Fix: What films have inspired it the most?
Mayan: All of the great 30’s-50’s Disney films.
Review Fix: Cinema Rex was scheduled to screen at Annecy International Film Festival but due to the recent situation with the Coronavirus, it screened online. What are your thoughts on this and do you think a virtual film festival could have the same impact as an in-attendance film festival?
Eliran: It’s a wired year, and we were quite sad about it- “Cinema Rex” is a film that was made as a love letter to Cinema, so it is quite unfortunate that it wasn’t screened on the big screen yet. But I do think that due to the digital platform of Annecy more people were exposed to the film than what will be In a standard screening at the festival. I don’t think it has the same impact, but we are very thankful for the Annecy team that didn’t give up and created this platform- in time like these, it was truly the best solution.
Review Fix: What have you learned about yourself through this entire process?
Mayan: I learned a lot (especially from the mistakes I made along the way.
And the major thing for me to learn was how to co-create a story in a partnership. Luckily I found the best partner to do so, Eliran completes me in so many aspects, we have such a different set of skills that combined to an awesome partnership.
Eliran: I learn about the power cinema. Like the plot of “Cinema Rex”, the creation of our film unite me with my great partner in crime Mayan, and with a fantastic team from Israel and outside of it. I come from the live-action world, it is my first animation project at these levels, and it was quite amazing to be a part of something that requires this amount of collaboration with so many talented people.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Eliran: “Cinema Rex” was produced a proof of concept for a feature film that is currently in financing. The short is 7 min produced out from the feature film. We want to tell the full story of “Cinema Rex” to the screen and tell the story of Mouize and Ranin’s friendship against all the odds.