POV: What was your visual approach to telling the story?
Oren Rudavsky: When I was an adolescent, I first learned about photography. And I remember some of the first photographs I took were of very mundane things, but I invested great emotion in those photographs. I can remember three or four images I took that I had this powerful emotional reaction to. That’s what images can do to people. They do it to me and that’s why I’m a filmmaker. I’ve got to be honest; it’s a very intuitive process for me. I’m very emotionally connected to what I’m filming, I can’t make films about things that I’m not emotionally connected to. That has its virtues and its problems. In this case, I really love Menachem’s family. I really love Menachem. I love that relationship with his father. There are so many scenes where you see that affection between characters on the screen, like when Menachem’s with his father.
Or in the cemetery where you see Menachem and his family wandering around, looking for a gravestone of a relative. I think when we go to a cemetery where somebody we know was buried, even 300 years ago, it takes on this magical aura. For us it was such a powerful experience. It was really surreal. I saw these trees coming out of the ground, and, you know, there is a story that Menachem’s aunt told about his mother, who lost her child at Auschwitz. The child was grabbed out of her hands. Menachem’s aunt tells the story of how this man said to Menachem’s mother, “You’re still young trees, you can still have fruit.” And so when I was in that cemetery, I’m seeing these figures walking around and trees growing out of the ground and tombs fallen down or standing up. There was only one way to shoot it, which was to watch from afar.
POV: What was your technical approach?
Rudavsky: Hiding and Seeking was specifically made as a diary film. It’s handheld, it’s in your face, it’s shot mostly with a wide angle lens. That allows me the choice to be very close to the people I’m shooting or to have distance and great vistas. It’s meant to be very informal and it’s shot that way. We’ve made other films like A Life Apart (watch clips) that are filmed in a much more formal way, and shot on tripod often. In this film there’s never a tripod, except for when we did one interview.
Menachem Daum: Over the years Oren has become sort of a member of our family. And therefore my sons felt very comfortable sticking their face in the camera and saying things they wouldn’t have said to any other filmmaker. So the magic moments in the film happened because we were working with someone who is really part of our family. And in a way we became oblivious to the camera over the course of the production, which probably wouldn’t have happened if we’d had big production gear and a strange crew. The camera was almost invisible and you can get the sense as you watch the film that no one’s really paying much attention to it.