Searchlight: Ariel Kleiman

Quietly moving, emotionally insightful and visually beautiful; for a first commercial, Ariel Kleiman’s ‘Marked For Life’ for Dutch charity SIRE is impressive stuff. But then the up-and-coming director has a bit of a track record for powerful filmmaking – his graduation film Deeper Than Yesterday, about a crew of submariners suffering a rather savage form of cabin fever, picked up accolades at film festivals all over the world, including Cannes and Sundance. We caught up with Ariel to find out more.

What was the initial brief like for the Marked For Life from agency 180 Amsterdam and what did you bring to it?

The brief was very strong and simple. 180 had put together a series of photos of different children with photoshopped tattoos on their bodies… I loved the clarity and simplicity of the concept and when I came onboard I proposed that we ground these images in reality as much possible, observing the kids being everyday kids in their own environments. Originally it was written to end with a boy getting a tattoo in a tattoo parlour, but I suggested instead that the boy’s father give him the tattoo in their living room.

How did you find working with the young actors?

I had never directed such young actors before and to be honest it was a little daunting. Though, as soon as we started the casting process I learnt that, amazingly, kids of that age are devoid of any self consciousness. There is no self censoring and as a director that is very refreshing to work with. I could stick the big 35mm camera right in their faces and they would act as naturally as if we were just eating ice cream together.

The dispassionate camera work contrasts really effectively with the emotive messages in the tattoos – how did you go about developing the look of the spot?

With a commercial like this, there is a big risk to drift over into an overly dramatic or sensationalist realm.
Im a big fan of contradictions. The idea of teaming such emotive images with very clinical camera work was a lot more exciting to me and I felt it would give the piece the emotional tone it deserved.

Aside from Sire, what projects or films of yours are you proudest of and why?

I think it would have to be “Deeper Than Yesterday”, my graduating film from film school. It was a ridiculously epic undertaking…shot on an old decommissioned military submarine, with 20 large russian men, water stunts, 35mm Cameras, all on a tiny student film budget…looking back on it, it was like the Apocalypse Now of student films. All reasonable logic would say that we were never going to finish it, but somehow we got it done and miraculously without killing anyone. (the film went on to play at festivals around the world and won several awards including best film at Cannes and Sundance) I learnt from “Deeper Than Yesterday” that the more uncomfortable I feel making a film the better the film will be.

When did you first pick up a camera?

I don’t remember the exact moment but i’m starting to regret it ­čÖé

What are your ambitions as a director?

I always like how professional athletes are coached to answer these kinds of questions – “I’m training hard and just taking it one game at a time.”

To find out more about Deeper Than Yesterday, visit the official site here. Ariel is currently signed with production company Partizan.

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