Our next queer artist to celebrate during Pride Month is filmmaker Tali Shalom-Ezer, known for her 2014 debut feature film Princess. Tali was born in Kfar Saba, Israel, in 1978. At a young age, Tali showed an interest in theater and performance, and joined a theater troupe during high school. Simultaneously, she was drawn to psychology as well, an interest most likely inherited from her mother, a psychiatric nurse. In fact, during her time spent serving in the Israel Defense Forces, Tali worked as a psychological evaluator for the enlisted soldiers.
Once out of the IDF, Tali returned to theater by studying acting at Beit Zvi School of Performing Arts. However, soon Tali decided to switch both her university and her subject of interest. She transferred to Tel Aviv University, and chose to major first in theater directing, and then later in film. A talented student, Tali even won a scholarship from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation to support her film studies.
Tali began her work in the industry as an assistant, once for a theater director and once for a casting director. Though mainly interested in film, she continued to nurture a love for live theater as well, by producing shows put on at fringe theater festivals.
Tali released her first film, a documentary called A Summer at Abarbanel, in 2005 while still in school. The 60 minute film follows the lives of three patients being treated in a mental institution. A Summer at Abarbanel won 2nd prize for Best Student Documentary at Docaviv Documentary Film Festival, the only documentary film festival in Israel.
Two years later, Tali released ‘Surrogate,’ which marked a true turning point in her career as a filmmaker.
In 2006, Tali made Living Room, a 19 minute short which screened at Jerusalem International Film Festival, as well as Cannes. Two years later, Tali released Surrogate, which marked a true turning point in her career as a filmmaker. The film centers on the relationship between Eli, a man unable to sustain relationships with women, and Hagar, his “surrogate,” who helps him through sexual therapy in a lab. The film won Best Feature Film at the International Women’s Film Festival in Rehovot. It also obtained special mention at FEMINA International Festival for Women’s Films, as well as won a coveted spot on the official selection at Edinburgh International Film Festival.
In 2009, a script of Tali’s won the Highlight Pitch Award at the Berlinale Talent Project Market. Tali was then invited to become part of the prestigious Script Development Program at the Binger Filmlab, a film development center designed to help support the development of feature-films and documentaries. At Binger, Tali worked on her prize-winning script with Jennifer Kent, the filmmaker known for writing and directing the internationally successful horror film The Babadook. In 2015, the film the script they created, Princess, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and was met with instant and overwhelming critical acclaim.
Princess examines a young girl’s fast-unraveling relationship with reality in the aftermath of sexual abuse. Tali’s expertise in psychology comes into full view in the film, both through the portrayal of the struggle of Adar, its protagonist, and the arresting cinematography which grabs hold of the viewer and drags them down the rabbit hole along with Adar. Princess won Best Music, Best Actress, Best Cinematography, and Best Feature at the Jerusalem International Film Festival.
In 2017, Tali’s most recent film, My Days of Mercy, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film, written by Joe Barton, is a romantic drama which stars Kate Mara and Elliot Page. My Days of Mercy represents Tali’s English language debut, as well as her first time directing a lesbian film. Though Tali herself is queer—she currently lives with her partner Libby Tishler in Tel Aviv—My Days of Mercy is her first time forefronting queer identities in her work.
Though Tali by no means has to choose projects which align with her own identity, it is always refreshing when a queer director is the one assigned to tell queer stories. Tali’s talent will without a doubt continue to reveal itself to audiences with each new film she unveils to the world. With her films being viewed on an international stage, the entire world can look forward to being exposed to the talents and successes of such a wonderful queer, woman filmmaker.
© Reese Alexander (6/12/23) FF2 Media
LEARN MORE/DO MORE
Read Jan Lisa Huttner’s review of Princess here.
Read Dayna Hagewood’s review of My Days of Mercy here.
Visit Tali Shalom-Ezer’s Wikipedia page here.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured Photo: 42nd Toronto International Film Festival – ‘My Days of Mercy’ – Premiere Featuring: Tali Shalom-Ezer Where: Toronto, Canada When: 15 Sep 2017. Credit: Jaime Espinoza/WENN.com/Alamy (KDYR46).