Every story ever told, whether carved in stone or projected on a screen, contains within it another, much more subtle narrative — the story inside the story. Just as a trained eye can distinguish and analyze the meaning behind each individual brushstroke on a canvas, so too can observant readers and listeners and viewers catch an intimate glimpse into the mind and heart of a storyteller.
Today, Israeli director Alon Juwal is known and envied throughout the industry for his uncanny gift for weaving together the visual and the cerebral elements of storytelling into his films. But it was when he was just a boy that he first fell in love with cinema, and long before taking his first steps into filmmaking, Juwal could almost always be found seated in the dark rows of his neighborhood’s movie theater. Growing up in Tel Aviv, Juwal saw movies as being like magic portals facing outward from reality; life at home had been challenging from an early age, and his lifelong love affair with cinema began as just an escape.
“My parents got divorced when I was just four years old, and I spent most of my time with my mother growing up,” Juwal said, recounting what may well be the most formative chapter of his life — both as a filmmaker and as a man. “Even though I saw my father quite often we were always pretty distant with one another.”
All he needed to do was buy a ticket and grab a seat, and he’d find himself transported to the far-off places and times projected on the big screen. But it wasn’t long before he realized that films offered him more than an escape; through filmmaking, Juwal gained the ability to deconstruct and illuminate the complex mix of emotions he’d long held within him.
“Ever since I was a child I always found film to be magical. I used to skip school just to get a chance to watch a movie one more time,” Juwal said with a note of nostalgia. “But it wasn’t until I was in my late teens that I felt like I wanted to make movies as well. Being moved by a film was always satisfying to me; but watching people being moved by my own film was a whole other level of experience.”
“The first thing they teach you in film school is to write about what you know, so I always tried to channel these experiences to my work. My latest film, ‘Visitors,’ is about a family struggling through an alien invasion,” said Juwal who, while otherwise known for being soft-spoken and modest, could nonetheless barely mask how proud he felt. “But at its core, it’s really the story of a father and son trying to rebuild their broken relationship.”
Thanks in large part to the raw narrative and emotional power of “Visitors” – which is set against the intense and captivating backdrop of a humanity faced with almost-certain extinction – Juwal was honored at the world-renowned New York City International Film Festival with the prestigious award for Best Director of a Sci-Fi Short.
“When I wrote the film, I tried to channel as much of my personal experience into it as I could. I knew almost nothing about aliens, but I knew a lot about growing up with an absent father,” said Juwal, opening a brief window into the film’s deeper symbolic meaning. “One of the film’s main themes is forgiveness, so when I watch it on the big screen with other viewers I hope that they’ll be thinking about their families, and I hope that they’ll re-evaluate the importance of family.”
Juwal was lauded by critics and audiences for his exceptional work as not only the director of “Visitors,” but as the film’s writer and producer as well. The added advantage of having near-unilateral control over the production allowed Juwal to create exactly the film he’d envisioned — a gamble which could have easily backfired and devastated his reputation, had he been a less talented filmmaker.
Instead, “Visitors” has been praised by critics from Madrid to New York as one of the year’s most innovative science fiction films. And as the film continues to take the international festival circuit by storm, more and more moviegoers are watching Juwal closely with a sense of eager anticipation.
“Only after I finished my military service in Israel I found the will and the discipline to take my film career seriously.”