I started my interview with Director Gabrielle Antosiewicz by asking her out on a date, which she politely but firmly declined. She has had some practice…
In her witty documentary, Gabrielle Antosiewicz gets to know some promising suitors by inviting them to bake a challah. And while the dough is rising, viewers learn about the travails of Internet dating and the secrets hidden beneath an Orthodox woman’s wig.What other projects have you worked on?
My training is as a social worker, and I’ve approached my films from there. My two previous films were about physically challenged people, one about a guy who became unsatisfied with Swiss healthcare and moved to
“Matchmaker” was in the theaters in
Your film was very funny and subtle. Are Jews like that in
My crew and I always found the film humorous, but we were pleasantly surprised to find the audiences have agreed. Jews can be very funny in
And the different audiences take it differently. For instance, the Swiss audiences really find the gentleman who sells kosher cheese and chocolate to be great, and funny. The clichés really play well there, and it’s wonderful, an Orthodox Jew selling Swiss cheese and chocolate. It is a good to introduction to Judaism for Swiss audiences.
And your audiences here?
I really appreciated how people waited outside for me at
What is Jewish life like in
How easy is it to be Swiss and Jewish?
We have a large amount of Jews who practice modern Judaism, and are very Swiss. They go to normal schools, and you don’t really know they are Jewish unless you see a kippah. Then you have people like me, the secular, who get their Jewish identity from youth groups, mostly.
In this country, you know every Jew from childhood, and then it is not interesting to date them with you get older. So I cannot find a kosher man. But, maybe I will do as the audiences have been telling me and move to
Or you could date a non-Jew, right? But wasn’t that a problem for one of the families?
And then this Orthodox family got angry and wouldn’t attend the movie because I ended the film saying I might marry a non-kosher man. I told them “I am not judging your life in the film, so you shouldn’t judge mine.”
I’m happy to say I just heard that the gentleman (who sells kosher food) will be attending a talk on Christianity and Judaism I will be giving back home. And I see where he’s coming from, the pressures he faces from his own community, but for me, as a woman, I will be able to make Jewish children and to raise them Jewish, so it is less important to marry a Jewish man. It would be much easier if the husband were Jewish, too, and much more fun. And if he’s not, I will have some difficulties, I’m sure.
Like one of the car dealers in “Matchmaker?”
Yes, the wife converted and then they had children. In fact, the car dealer brothers are twins, and the non-Jewish wives both converted--they do everything together—but they sort of let it fall by the wayside. They turn 50 and the husband joins the Jewish choir and hangs out with Jewish friends. Then, the husband wants the children to marry Jewish spouses. I felt there was a disconnect they didn’t speak about. And then his wife asked him a really good question: “Why didn’t you marry a Jewish woman?” This was a great moment in the film. It was a heavy, serious question that I couldn’t allow myself.
What has the dating experience been like for your Jewish friends in
This is one of things that pushed me to make the movie: once my friends who had been dating non-Jews turned 30, they all started relationships with Jews and within a year all fell in love and got married. I said to myself this is all a bit funny. It never happens to me! What’s going on here?
So what did you do?
I met with my rabbi, which I left out of the film because I didn’t want to present just one sect of rabbi, who helped me calculate that there about 40 available men in my age range and level of observance in the country of
And how has the scene been treating you as of late?
I can tell you that the men who approached me after screenings were strange. It is interesting that sometimes strange people have more confidence in writing and making contact than the normal ones! Yes, at the screenings in
I was intimidated to interview you, I must admit. Because you get such good material from your subjects. Would you tell me how you interview?
Haha. I maintain neutrality, prepare carefully, and let things unfold. What I did in the movie was to portray people from different walks of life without judging them, without too much commentary, a really old documentary style, in a way. And even then I only made fun of myself, really. And I appeared in the movie, which I felt I needed to do if I was going to send the message I wanted to send.
At first I didn’t even want to narrate the film, but then it became clear it needed it. In the voiceover, I make comments that are neutral but playfully ironic, which took me ages to write. And as you remarked earlier, Jon, in one scene you can see my reflection in the glass, and I have my hand over my mouth. That is because I was very tired that day. Normally I am much more animated.
I try to be a good listener, and use silence to get people to say a little more, which often is very interesting. Plus, I always fall in love with my cast of characters, so I like to listen to them talk. And in the end, I show myself too, and I make friends from this. From each film I make at least three or four friends.
To what degree do you think the Jewish experience in
We do have JDate, and I tried this to cast the challah-bakers in “Matchmaker.” But after a while I found you end up writing too much, and the other person’s questions just get silly, like “what is your favorite food to cook?” I would rather meet the person for a cup of coffee. I mean, after a while, what should I tell you, “I’m working. I like to work. I’m sleeping, I’m eating.”? I get bored. Plus, as you saw in the film, my sense of humor is sarcastic. So after a while my emails get sarcastic and this doesn’t fly on JDate! The sarcasm comes from my genes (my dad), and it’s not mean.
Well, they say girls aren’t supposed to be sarcastic.
I know. I should be shy and nice and cooking. That’s why they kept asking me about my favorite dish. I mean, do you want love or someone to feed you?
I just read an article in the New York Times that surprised me. In
Well, your film screens at Makor. You might try their speed-dating service.
You know, a rabbi in
What are the typical questions you get asked?
Back home people always ask about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and they think this is one thing they know about. They confuse Judaism with the political policies of
Yes, Gabrielle is having a latte with me. She is not bombing as of yet.
Thanks. And I also get a lot of appreciative comments regarding the plurality of Jews in “Matchmaker.” Walking the streets of
So you play the role of educator, too.
Oh, very much so. In fact I had this in mind as I approached “Matchmaker,” that it would educational and entertaining. All my movies are like that: I try to entertain and to inform. When I watch documentaries, it can get depressing. So I try to impart the information via entertainment. If you don’t have to cry and you’re allowed to laugh, I think it works best. That’s my own recipe.
And the topic is so global. It’s not just for Jews. It also resonates with a lot of minorities in
Where does this leave you in your search for a man?
It is a shame that things are so complicated. Ideally everyone would just mix and be friends and lovers, but that isn’t how it is. I’m not stressed out though, because I know I will meet someone who is comfortable by himself, too. And until then I’m waiting for that crazy feeling in your body when you fall in love.