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Disobedience x Everyman Exclusive Interview

We caught up with Director Sebastián Lelio to discuss his inspiration behind the romantic drama Disobedience, here’s what he told Everyman exclusively…

Q: What was it you found in Naomi Alderman’s novel that compelled you to make your first English-language feature?

It seemed like territory that I could inhabit, I’ve always been interested in the tensions between individual film and interests of the community, of beauty and desire, of faith and reason. So, I would say I was mainly captivated by this very particular, unique, triangular love story.

Q: While Gloria and A Fantastic Woman both have a clear protagonist, the story of Disobedience belongs to at least three people. Was this a challenging or a liberating shift of focus? 

Well, that was another factor that was appealing to me, those films were centred, completely centred on their protagonists, revolving around only one character. So this was an opportunity to explore a more baroque style narrative — because it’s the point of view that is always shifting between one of the three main characters of Ronit, Esti, and Dovid almost like an opera, sometimes  it’s one of them, sometimes it’s all three.  I think this gives the film a certain vitality, complexity, and richness. 

Q: What unites these three titles, perhaps,  is their focus on women at the fringes  of society. How important is it for cinema  to engage with underexplored narratives  like these? 

Well, I think cinema should be free and, in this case, these three films are focused on characters that are on the fringes of society  or on the outside of mainstream narratives.  I was attracted to this particular story because I was following my intuition, not because I was following a political agenda or to fill the gap — I don’t operate like that. There was also something very moving and touching about taking a character that isn’t usually observed and placing them at the absolute centre of the film.

Q: The film is set in an area that Everyman knows well! North London has long been home for the type of Orthodox Jewish community that Disobedience portrays.  How did you go about authentically  depicting such a close-knit community?

Well, it’s such a private community; you either belong to it or you never have access to it,  no one really knows what happens inside the houses or the synagogues. What’s fascinating about it is that it’s contemporary London  but at the same time it’s of a different era.  I had to learn a lot, we had four consultants  for the scriptwriting process, consultants  that belong to the community — we had to learn about absolutely everything. It was  vital that we got the cultural complexities right — we had 12 consultants in the end! To get it right, to honour how their life is, we had to capture that.

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