If anyone is well prepared for being half of what is almost universally called “Israel’s literary power couple,” Shira Geffen is that person. She’s the daughter of Israeli poet Yehonatan Geffen, sister of Israeli rock star Aviv Geffen, and a great-niece of Moshe Dayan.
“I have my own life,” Geffen said from her home in Tel Aviv, talking by phone to Lilith about her work as a writer and director. “I’m fine with strong people, and I feel strong in my own way.”
Being married to Israeli fiction writer Etgar Keret, therefore, seems like a natural outgrowth of growing up as one of what Geffen’s brother has termed “the Israeli Kennedys.” But the couple’s choice to co-direct “Jellyfish” (Meduzot in Hebrew), an independent film written by Shira Geffen, 37, was literally a labor of love, and a fruitful one which won the coveted Camera d’Or prize at Cannes in 2007.
Many women would view with trepidation the idea of working with their husbands; not so Geffen, who is something of an essentialist when it comes to the male-female dichotomy.
“I think what’s good with me and Etgar is that he is very much a man and I am very much a woman,” she said. “We work off of each other. He sees the future and the past, and I see the present, much like women and men. Women see the present very clearly. We did it together. “Besides,” she added, “Ten years together… we’ve mastered the art of arguing.”
The film takes place in an imagined Tel Aviv which is far from the realities of Israeli society. This sense of dislocation is deliberate. Geffen notes that each of the stories woven together in the film causes viewers to confront their sense of place, physically and emotionally, in their own lives as well as the lives of others.
Geffen grew up somewhat dislocated herself. Her parents divorced when she was a child, and she grew up all over the country. One of the film’s potent scenes is a visualization of her unpublished short story which inspired the film: a little girl goes to the beach with her parents, and while she is floating in the ocean she overhears bits and pieces of her parents’ fighting, back on the sand.
“She sees them from very far away, and they look like they are dancing,” Geffen said. “The rest of the movie came from that point, the idea of being far away from things and to be growing on water without roots.
“It’s a very personal movie,” Geffen said. “People who connect to the movie realize that the story can happen here in Tel Aviv or in Paris, or anywhere.”
“Jellyfish” is particularly personal for Geffen. In the last few days of shooting, she gave birth to the couple’s son, Lev. It’s been a busy time. She recently acted in the role of a therapist in “B’tipul” (“In Treatment”), the hit Israeli tv show that inspired the HBO version.