• Flash Competition



Yotam Ben-David

Yotam Ben-David was born and raised in Israel. He has left his homeland and now lives in exile in Paris. He films himself, male solitary figure in his flat, windows open towards the city and its rumble. Dusk falls. Voices start to come from somewhere other than outside. The printer, which had been shaking alone on a stool, suddenly switches off. A power failure deepens the evening darkness. The night opening up is not just the opposite of day, but the place and the subject of an inner experience, a metaphysical journey taking the lone dweller to the very edge of his own being. He is chatting on Skype with his grandfather, but as soon as the computer shuts down only the reflection of his face remains on the black screen, between two candles. A daydream? Because his grandfather is dead. Talking with the dead means bringing back childhood memories of home, but also lamenting what the rulers have done to his homeland. End: the very tip and the end. The Far West is Israel, a land first dreamt of, then projected by the West beyond itself. The grandfather stands as the embodiment of this old dream that has become a lost world, and his death marks the end of a story that began on the roofs of Babylon. But the end of the Far West also necessarily implies the end of the West itself: of a history of technology and alternatively colonial and space conquest. The filmmaker’s bedroom meditation is of this scope: metaphysical, historical, geopolitical. But this is no history lesson, only a painful and uncertain mourning process. Birds sing in the early hours of the morning, but points of light form a vertical line in the Parisian sky alike rockets fired from the other side of the West. Dawn is deceptive: this is twilight.

Cyril Neyrat

End Of The West deals with the feeling of exile in an elaborate and suggestive way, starting with the title. How did you choose it?

The title of the film comes from a poem by the Andalusian Jewish poet and philosopher Yehuda Halevi. In the poem he expresses the ancient Jewish longing towards the promised land and Jerusalem, yearning for it from afar in exile. In the film I wanted to revisit this ancient Jewish sentiment through a new perspective of a person who was born in that holy land and had decided to leave it. In the poem it is an idolizing nostalgia for a place never visited, the object of religious desire to fulfill thousands of years of longing. In my film I wanted to express conflictual and layered sentiments both towards the place I left, but also to the experience of exile itself. Removed from its original context, I wanted to add a double meaning the word end – while in the poem it is the very far edge of a geography, in the film it also refers to the finiteness of western culture, the decline of societies and empires. The feeling of being far away at the edge of the world, farthest from any sense of home, and also the idea of baring witness to extinction. The film takes place in the movement between traditions passed on generationally and the uncertainty of what is to come, back and forth between past and future. It is a sci-fi film about time traveling, in which the vehicle for movement in time is ancient scripture, rituals and futuristic technology.

End Of The West takes place at nightfall, during a power outage, thus again addressing the themes of light and darkness that dominate some of your other films (such as Have You Seen That Man? FID 2021 and Tonnerre sur Mer FID 2018). Could you tell us more about the importance of these elements in your films and in this one in particular?

For me one of the beauties of cinema is its ability to describe ambiguity. I often feel that the cinematic language is the place, out of verbal language, out of political analysis, in which I can explore nuances, liminality, illusiveness. I guess my interest in light comes from a similar place, it has both a physical and metaphysical quality, a particle and a wave, both realistic and mystic. In my films I am often interested in the sensory experiences that come out of the daily and how these experiences can transform into something else that transcends the mundane. I am trying to walk a thin line between mystical and realistic without forcing on it a fixed idea or one meaning. In this film light can be both the torchbearer of traditions, a spiritual presence, but also the cold rational force of future technologies.

In the film, an articulated relationship is established between the interior of the flat and the outside world. How did this come about?

One of the first ideas I had for this film in the beginning was the attempt to create a portrait of a person through his surroundings. I wanted to see to what extent I can define him almost without seeing him, as a kind of accumulation of points of view. In all of my films, even if I have a protagonist that goes through a certain trajectory, my main interest is in the feedback between characters and their environments. I am interested in the simultaneousness of events and parallel life forms existing next to one another, what they have in common and what sets them apart, in both the potential for us to sympathize with one another through a shared or similar experience but also how eventually we end up very solitary in our own very private experience.
In this film in particular I wanted to talk about immigration and exile, and to show both the different variations of it, as well as the places in which similarities and parallels occur. The city as reflected from the openings of the apartment in the film, is the incorporation of Babylon: a mix of languages and experiences, a building that raises up to the skies and angers god. While making the film I was thinking about the duality of Babylon as both the cautionary tale of the vanity of human beings using technology in order to become gods, but also Babylon as the ancient place of humanity’s wisdom, the common knowledge we share, how it binds us together, how we carry it on from generation to generation.

One of the central themes of the film is that of transition and decay, not only of disappearing cultures and traditions, but also of the technology that should, in some ways, embody modernity.

The film puts into question this notion of modernity and what does it mean. Technological advancement brought humanity different outcomes and along with great improvements to our wellbeing, to our understanding of the world we live in, it also brought the greatest catastrophes we are currently facing. In my films I often end up creating ecosystems that consist of people, animals and machines and the different ways in which they all interact and exist with one another. I am very interested in how the machines we’ve invented live with us like Frankensteins, opening luminous eyes in the dark on their own and moving beside us independently. How the machines we’ve invented keep us company often more than other human beings, and when they suddenly die out we are left with our loneliness bare. I was thinking of the machines we live with now, the machines we used to live with that are relics of past inventions no longer in use, of novelty gone archaic.
Cinema by its nature is a very interesting medium to explore time with. Its capacity to capture the passing moment and make it infinite while at the same time creating a sort of testament of what once was and will never be again, fascinates me. This film was made during a long period of time, during which, my grandfather – that I was very close to – had passed away. Suddenly, I was left with a half made film in which his voice haunted me from the other side. This had changed the direction of the film and opened in me new series of questions, both about how technology and art can preserve and keep alive parts of us after we are gone, but also what parts of us do we carry on to the future, as individuals, as cultures and civilizations, as the human race.

Interview by Marco Cipollini

  • Flash Competition
16:1528 June 2024Artplexe 2
11:3029 June 2024Artplexe 2
14:0030 June 2024Cinéma Artplexe 3

Technical sheet

France / 2024 / Colour / 16'

Original version: Arabic, French, Hebrew
Subtitles: English, French
Script: Yotam Ben-David
Photography: Yotam Ben-David, Victor Zebo, Samer Selbak
Editing: Yotam Ben-David
Sound: Jan Vysocky
Cast: Yotam Ben-David

Production: Yotam Ben-David (Mamzer Films)
Contact: Yotam Ben-David (Mamzer Films)

Have you Seen that man? / 2020/ 15 min.
Thunder from the Sea / 2018/ 46 min.
Long Distance / 2015/ 15 min.
Remains/ 2013/ 30 min.