Birth Right

By Adlin Pinto

Belongingness is a human emotion so core to each and every person. Our need to be accepted as a member of a group. Whether it is family, friends, co-workers, a religion, or something else. Feelings that you belong are most important when experiencing intensely painful emotions or moments of euphoria. A sense of belonging to a greater community improves your motivation, health, and happiness. Read more about Birth Right here.

Inbar Horesh’s Award-winning film BIRTH RIGHT shares a story that focuses on the complexities of Jewish nationalism.

The camera pans on several women, but on one, Natasha (Nataliya Olshanskaya), in particular. Twenty-one years old, she’s from Moldova, a former republic of the now defunct Soviet Union. Like her companions, she’s in Israel to explore its geography, history and culture and to decide, perhaps, whether she should set down roots and become an Israeli citizen.

Pushing for that outcome, the tour guide exults, “Welcome to your historic homeland” as their bus passes a stretch of arid landscape. They’re deposited in a camp site in the desert where they will spend the night. Here things turn ugly when she manages to catch the attention of Shlomi a handsome combat soldier.

Birth Right, which has been making the rounds of Jewish film festivals around the world, is a spare, unsentimental and affecting movie that speaks to the themes of identity and nationalism. This topical film has been selected for sixteen high profile international film festivals including Carmel International Short Film Festival where it received a special mention, Seret Berlin Film Festival, Jerusalem Film Festival and more. Birth Right just won the 2020 Moulin d’Ande Award at Cinemed: Montpellier International Festival of Mediterranean Cinema.

We got the opportunity to ask a few questions to the Director Inbar Horesh.

What inspired the story line for you?

I met Natasha who later on became the lead actress for the film quite by chance, she told me the story of her immigration to Israel. This story made me realize that the state of Israel is financing a huge initiative that encourages immigration of young people with some Jewish heritage, but many of them don’t consider themselves Jews. So it raises a question for me, why encourage the immigration of non-Jews and give them citizenship and not give citizenship to the non-Jews already living here.

Where did you manage to get the cast from?

While casting for Birth Right I was looking for non-actors, young adults who speak Russian as a first language and live in Israel. I found most of them randomly on Facebook and only a few through acting agencies. I met so many fascinating people and heard so many fascinating stories during the casting process that eventually I wrote several parts in the script for specific actors I had met during casting and invited many of the nominees that didn’t get a main role to take part in the shooting as extras. Eventually we spent a week of shooting in the desert with a group of 20 young adults, non-actors from Russian speaking countries, some of whom didn’t speak any Hebrew or English and some were visiting in the desert for the first time. It was a beautiful, real, funny and fascinating experience.   

where is the shoot location and why did you choose to shoot there?We were shooting in the Negev desert. I chose to shoot in the desert because I found it completely ironic and comical that the group members who are all from north-east European back-ground will come to look for their roots in the desert. The desert is a brutal and beautiful landscape that makes all humans feel like visitors as opposed to locals.

 How many days did you shoot for?

6 days in total.

The story seems to give over to ideas of bullying outsider not belonging.  Can you explain why you choose to go down this line?This film is about the search for belongness. I feel that many times people forget that regardless of the nation or ethnicity, people are eventually just people. In order to feel a sense of belongness, we need to get along with our surroundings, we need to have real connections and friends. And this is much more crucial than having an identical ethnic background. 

How does this story impact anyone in any country in the world?

All over the world people are looking for their identity and belonging. I want to suggest that maybe the sense of belonging is fictitious in a way.

Can you explain the term ‘birth right’ so everyone can understand?The film is called Birth Right because I am questioning the racial concept of having the birth right to become Israeli or belonging to the Israeli society only for having some Jewish blood. At the same time it is referring to the organization Birthright-Israel which was an inspiration to the film. This is the largest organization in the Jewish world that works on bringing every descendant of a Jew to visit Israel for at least one time. 

At the end when Natasha sees herself in the mirror where do you feel she could potentially go forward (in say a full length film)?

The ending is open because I don’t know where she will go. And honestly, I think it doesn’t matter. She can belong anywhere. She deserves to have the right to be and live anywhere she wants, and to have the freedom to try and move and go back and forth. I want to say that belonging is not about a place and not about an identity. It’s about finding the individuals that you can connect to. Everything wider than that will never be completely authentic. 

If you loved reading Birth Right then read Warm Scent here.