How we made Cinema Rex

Eliran and Mayan remind us of the power of cinema then use it to celebrate diversity. They highlight the deep connection of two kids from separate religions, nationalities, and gender. Let’s dive into the creation of Cinema Rex a family picture that combines the nostalgia of Cinema Paradiso and the magic of Mary Poppins in Middle-Eastern culture.

Hey guys, so tell us about your film.

Sure! …at the center of Cinema Rex, we have two 10-year-old kids, Moeiz, a Jewish boy, and Ranin, an Arab girl. The children get in and out of films from Errol Flynn’s “Robin Hood” to the best of Egyptian cinema, and within a short time together, form a close friendship based on a common language: their love of cinema. The Rex becomes the center of their lives and they believe they have found their destiny. However, outside the cinema reality of life lives on.

indieactivity: Why was it important for you to share your story of Cinema Rex?
Mayan Engelman (ME): As an artist who prefers a lot more drawing than talking, I found the animation world a perfect way to communicate with others. When Eliran told me about the Cinema Rex story, a real cinema in the middle of a war zone, fulfilling coexistence in its best, offering a new way to communicate through cinema – in such a naive and honest way, I couldn’t resist jumping in! It held the pure magic that moving pictures have to offer with its unique approach to connect hearts.

The Official Trailer for 2D Animation Short Film, Cinema Rex by Mayan Engelman and Eliran Peled

indieactivity: What was your first project?
Mayan Engelman (ME): My first short was The Cabinet Decision in 2014, a film symbolizing the Israelian- Palestinian conflict to a siam tweens struggle, questioning how two entities can share one body.

Eliran Peled (EP): I did my first short film at the age of 17, that’s a long time ago. It was a 20 min period film about the time the Beatles almost came to perform in Israel in 1963.

indieactivity: What worked better in this latest production that mightn’t have worked so well in the last one you did?
Mayan Engelman (ME): It’s the first time I am co-directing a film and doing an animation and art direction for a team of talented people. Everything was new to me in that aspect of teamwork, which was a lot easier and more fun compared to my other films, which I created solo.

Eliran Peled (EP): Every production has its own nature, but the production of Cinema Rex was truly a pleasure thanks to the great collaboration of Mayan and myself and our amazing and talented team.

indieactivity: Is there anything about the independent filmmaking business that you struggle with?
Mayan Engelman (ME): I think there is a great balance to find between the things you love and believe in and the things the investors and funds will like. Luckily, Eliran and I managed to follow our hearts and beliefs in that aspect. Our short came up exactly the way we dreamed it to be.

Eliran Peled (EP): Getting the finance in place is always harder than imagined.

Ranin offers Mouize popcorn in ‘Cinema Rex.’ (Courtesy of Mayan Engelman & Eliran Peled-Cinema Rex)

indieactivity: Where do you think your strengths lie as a filmmaker?
Mayan Engelman (ME): I am a storyteller by heart, and I feel that my greatest strength is my ability to use design, colors, and lights to bring the right emotional feelings and atmosphere to the story.

Eliran Peled (EP): This a difficult question:) , for myself, I think that I know how to work in a team (and love to do so) – and as a director and producer, I do have the ability to work on the finance and business aspects of the projects that I work on.

indieactivity: How was the film financed?
Mayan & Eliran: The film was financed by some Israeli based film funds (Keren Makor, Israeli Lottery, the Jerusalem Film Fund), JCC, and some private equity investments.

indieactivity: What do you hope audiences get from your film?
Mayan Engelman (ME): I am a true believer in coexistence, and that is the main reason I fell in love with the Cinema Rex story. Rex served as an actual pink bubble of sanity in the middle of the war zone, offers a new common language, and a place where everyone forgets their differences and enjoys cinema together. I hope it will inspire our audience as much as it inspired me.

Eliran Peled (EP): Our film tells a story about the power of Cinema to unite enemies and cultures. Our message is about the power that relies on finding the root of communication, in our film the common language they find is the Cinema.

Cinema Rex_indieactivity
Ranin and Mouize imagine themselves taking part of the adventures they see on screen. (Courtesy of Mayan Engelman & Eliran Peled/Cinema Rex)

indieactivity: What else have you got in the works?
Mayan Engelman (ME): At this very moment, I am working as a visual development artist at Netflix for an unannounced animated feature, alongside developing our full story of Cinema Rex. Other projects I am involved with are still confidential, so, unfortunately, I can’t tell too much.

Eliran Peled (EP): I am currently in pre-production for my first live-action feature film Euphoria-Victory Year. It is a musical film. I am also directing a new docu-series for an Israeli broadcaster. This is all happening while we are still working full time on the development of the Cinema Rex feature.

Background of the film: Jerusalem, 1938, the British ruled Palestine. The Rex movie theater opens in a grand gala. The unique location is already evident on opening night. The movie theater is the border of Jewish and Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem, with the British police station across the street. For a while, the place helped put aside the bitter conflict and created a melting pot in which there was one common language – the language of cinema. Every night British, Arab, and Jewish people came to the Rex to watch movies together.

Tell us what you think of the interview with Eliran Peled and Mayan Engelman. What do you think of it? What ideas did you get? Do you have any suggestions? Or did it help you? Let’s have your comments below and/or on Facebook or Instagram! Or join me on Twitter.

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