Creating an account with gives you access to more features and services, like our weekly newsletter and other special features just for the film community.

Large article 118181014 marquee

Rabies: Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado

Meet the directing duo behind Israel's first horror film, a scream-inducing, politically allegorical bloodbath shot in just 19 days. Their perfect date? Big Kahuna Burgers with Quentin.



Tribeca: Tell us a little about Rabies (Kalevet).


Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado:
It took 62 years for Israel to make its first horror film, which is also the first Israeli slasher film. However, Rabies isn’t just a typical slasher film in which a psychopath meets girl, psychopath kills girl, and nobody lives happily ever after. The movie starts off as is typically expected from the genre: a young girl falls into hunting trap set by a psychotic killer, and her older brother goes on a rescue mission. This event starts a chain reaction of misunderstandings that drag four tennis players, two cops and one forest ranger into a whirlwind of fears and violence. Rabies was written with a lot of humor, and it has lots of twists and comic moments you wouldn't normally find in these kinds of movies.  


Tribeca: What inspired you to tell this story?


AK & NP:
For years, Israeli cinema has been obsessed with two major genres: military dramas (Lebanon, Beaufort) and family dramas (Broken Wings, Late Marriage). In the last two decades you could count on one hand the number of comedies made in Israel, and as for other genres—they basically didn't exist. There is a feeling that everything in Israeli cinema has to be political or morbid, and preferably both. There’s little room for subtext in these kinds of films. Everything must be overt.


So we decided that we wanted to become the pioneers of the Israeli horror film genre. The question we are always asked first is: Doesn’t Israel have enough terror and bloodshed in reality? Why would you want to put more gruesome images on the silver screen? We have answered with the following: If that’s true, why is Israeli cinema so keen on making war films? Furthermore, war films use realistic images and real events as their backbone. Horror movies use surrealistic and often absurd images and events as their foundation. The horror genre uses violence and gore to induce catharsis.


However, Rabies still has a lot to say about the reality of life in Israel. You can even describe it as a dark and twisted allegory about the state of Israel: a country so obsessed with conflict that it has forgotten to ask questions about its own societal problems. With a former president who was just convicted on rape charges, and a bunch of ministers and army officials undergoing investigations for sexual harassment and corruption, there is a feeling that underneath the surface, the land of milk and honey is rotting. There’s violence and intolerance everywhere you go. Israelis are renowned for having a short fuse, but in the past ten years it seems to have become even shorter, almost non-existent.


Kalevet in Hebrew means rabies—a disease that attacks your nervous system. In Rabies, we take a bunch of innocent characters and put them in an intense environment to see whether or not they become infected and lose their humanity. As you might guess by now, the name of the film is metaphorical. Rabies is a horror satire about the unbearable harshness of living in Israel.

Tribeca: Which horror filmmakers have influenced you?


AK & NP:
You can’t make a horror film without acknowledging the masters: Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Luccio Fulci, George Romero, Brian De Palma, Joe Dante, Wes Craven, John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper. Later inspiration came from the twisted minds of Takashi Miike, Rob Zombie and Quentin Tarantino.


We might add that the tone of the film has been influenced by the Korean films of Chan Wook Park (Oldboy) and Jee-woon Kim (Bittersweet Life), the European nightmares of Michael Haneke (especially Funny Games), and the Japanese cult film Battle Royale.



Tribeca: As a writing/directing duo, what was your filmmaking process like? How did you divvy up the work?


AK & NP:
We don’t have a stringent system. We think the same, and this allows the work flow to be divided up naturally between us. It's probably not the best thing to say about ourselves, but we are very much alike. Our friendship was built upon our similar taste in films. The writing process was a bit like table tennis. We toss up ideas and challenge each other until we’re satisfied with the result. As for directing, it's such a blessing to have a second director on set, especially when you have a large ensemble cast and complex camera shots. With two directors, everything can run more smoothly, and a dream of finishing a film in 19 days can become a reality. One director handles the camera, and the other talks to the actors, and vice versa.

Tribeca: What's the craziest thing (or "lightning strikes" moment) that happened during production?


AK & NP:
We shot most of our special effects scenes in long takes. This is a very small budget film, so we had one or two takes for these complicated shots. One of these shots involved a long tracking shot, a huge explosion followed by a flying stunt man and capturing the reaction of a very scared actress. There was such a lot that could go wrong—the actress making the wrong gesture, the cinematographer missing his cue, the stunt man sailing through the air and ending up in the wrong place. We knew we had a second chance to get the shot, but not a third. It was extremely nerve-wracking. Luckily, we did it in two takes! Needless to say the actress was very convincing—she was truly terrified for the entire shot!

Tribeca: What’s the biggest thing you learned while making Rabies?


AK & NP:
Leave room for improvisation. Smart actors are their own best writers, and that’s just one reason we truly believe that your screenplay is done only when the end credits roll.


Tribeca: What's your advice for aspiring filmmakers?


AK & NP:
Always try to make the films you’d like to watch with your friends. Don’t ever write or direct for an imaginary audience. You can never know which way your film will journey.


Tribeca: What are your hopes for Rabies at Tribeca?


AK & NP:
We’re still overwhelmed by just being accepted to this prestigious festival. We shot for 19 days on a very low budget, and now it’s being shown in Tribeca?! What more can we ask? Hopefully, the audience will appreciate our loving homage to the slasher genre, and we would be very proud to have sewn the initial seeds of a thriving horror movement in Israel. 



Tribeca: If you could have dinner with any filmmaker (alive or dead), who would it be?


AK & NP:
Since we’re already having dinner with Robert DeNiro… We are having dinner with him, right? We would have to choose to dine with Quentin Tarantino. We’ll probably go to the Hawaiian burger joint, The Big Kahuna Burger, and have ourselves a tasty burger and a tasty beverage to wash it down with. Mr. Tarantino is one of those rare and treasured talents who know how to make a film that is thoroughly entertaining and yet thought provoking. The Coen Brothers and Christopher Nolan are also invited to our fancy burger dinner party with Quentin Tarantino.    


Tribeca: What piece of art (book/film/music/tv show/what-have-you) are you currently recommending to your friends most often?


AK & NP:
We’re big fans of Korean films. We’ve just seen Jee-woon Kim's I Saw the Devil, which has a brilliant take on revenge films: based on the premise that the avenger doesn’t kill his prey, but instead decides to play a wicked game of cat and mouse with him. Of course, there’s no mouse in this movie, only cats. Deadly cats, that is.


Tribeca: What would your biopic be called?


AK & NP:
Dead Ringers or even better, Twins with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny De-Vito. You’ll get the joke when you see us in real life!

Tribeca: What makes Rabies a Tribeca must-see?


AK & NP:
Like we said: it’s the first Israeli horror film, and it’s also funny. It’s a fresh take on the genre—for instance, it takes place mainly in daylight (special thanks to the Israeli sunlight), it has lots of interlocking stories (not just a conventional linear narrative), and even though it was shot on a very low budget, we were able to recruit the biggest stars in Israel to take part. Join us, it’ll be fun.


Watch the trailer:


Check out Rabies' Official Site.


Browse all this year's Festival films in the2011 Film Guide.


Meet more Faces of the Festival.


Become a fan of Tribeca on Facebook.


What you need to know today