“What I Wanted to See When I Was 16”

“Blush” (‘Barash’), a lesbian-themed teen movie, is the hottest new film coming from Israel. Lior Elefant, artistic director of Lethal Lesbian Film Festival, and actress Sivan Noam Shimon try to explain what makes it so special

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Sivan Noam Shimon (left) and Jade Sakori in “Blush”

“Blush” (‘Barash’) brings to the screen the story of Naama Barash, a 17-year-old who lives in a sleepy suburb, where she’s hanging out with her girlfriends whose common hobbies are alcohol, drugs, and new phone apps. Naama Barash lives with her detached parents, a miserable little brother, and a sister who is a soldier that creates drama every time she goes out with another deprived boy. One day a new student arrives at school and Naama falls head over heels in love with her and finds herself drawn into a new and exciting world of sex and lesbian clubs in Tel Aviv.

“This is one of the most important teenage movies that were made here,” says Lior Elefant, artistic director of Lethal Lesbian (Israel’s Lesbian Film Festival), and a moderator of filmmakers forum. “It presents a whole new perspective, not seen until now – from the eyes of a teen as seen by the director, but not just a teen girl – a teenage girl having an affair with another girl. And all this in an entirely Israeli context. The point of view is what makes this film important, as well as story – a lesbian affair between teenagers – like I wanted to see when I was of 16.”

What caused Elefant to love the movie, is exactly what brought director and creator Michal Vinick to write it. “It was clear that the first feature film I made, I’d write about someone I know, someone who is close to me,” she explains. To create realism, Vinick chose not to use experienced actresses.

“We looked for them in schools, at parties, and agencies of various kinds,” she says. “In the end, I found Jade on the street. I saw her walking and chased her with my bike. We talked and she said she would do an audition. The moment she arrived at the audition, the casting director said she wanted her. Sivan was also quite inexperienced and I hope that after this film both are considered real actresses.”

Though Sivan Noam Shimon (30) has no acting experience, she has gone through some of the same processes that the character she plays in the film experiences.

“I came out at 16,” she says, “I fell in love. And then my heart was broken. Luckily I was accepted really nicely, I have a very supportive family. I’ve been blessed in that sense. The movie is important to me because it talks about freedom, about giving legitimacy to the other and even if you don’t love them, at least accept and get know them, which to me is what inter-racial and same-sex love is, and truthfully the parallelism between inter-racial and same-sex love.”

What is the message you’d like the film to convey?

“It’s a personal film about family drama, it’s not a political film. But I think you can understand that the film speaks to tolerance. Many lesbian love stories end tragically, when someone is murdered, commits suicide, is considered a deviant, or just suddenly decides to go straight, and returns to men. I believe there’s a lot of importance to the fact that this love story ends, and life simply continues and that’s fine. First love is first love, it’s fun and it hurts but you don’t die from it. the realization of the end of the film really gives legitimacy to this love.”