Oscar winner Guy Nattiv’s next film probes grandma’s cult past
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Under the skin

Oscar winner Guy Nattiv’s next film probes grandma’s cult past

‘Harmony’ is a documentary about the Holocaust survivor’s mysterious and ‘devastating’ decision to leave her life in Israel and join a compound in Virginia

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

'Skin' actors Lonnie Chavis (left) and Jackson Robert Scott (right) with director Guy Nattiv (center) (Courtesy 'Skin' official Facebook page)
'Skin' actors Lonnie Chavis (left) and Jackson Robert Scott (right) with director Guy Nattiv (center) (Courtesy 'Skin' official Facebook page)

Israeli Academy Award winner Guy Nattiv, whose 20-minute film “Skin” about racial tensions won for Best Short Film, is looking to his own family’s haunted past for his next film.

“Harmony,” a documentary about his Holocaust-surviving grandmother, will delve deeply into Nattiv’s family life, reported the Israeli Ynet news site.

The film is ostensibly about Nattiv’s effort to bring the body of his grandmother, who was 70 at the time of her death in Virginia, for burial in Israel, fulfilling his grandfather’s final wish, Nattiv told Ynet following his Oscar win.

But it’s what took her to Virginia in the first place that provides the drama, as the film will chronicle Nattiv trying to find out why his grandmother left a full life in Israel. The movie will reportedly be shown first on HOT8, the Israeli documentary channel.

Nattiv told Ynet that his grandmother cut herself off from her family to join an American cult in the 1980s, where she lived with 35 other women in a Virginia compound, and died penniless.

“It was devastating for us,” he said.

Nattiv himself was drawn from Israel to the US, where he moved four years ago after marrying American Jewish actor Jaime Ray Newman in 2012 in Tel Aviv.

He told online magazine “Close-Up Culture” that “Skin” was his first American narrative work, as well as his first time working in English with an American crew and actors. The short film’s cast included Lonnie Chavis, who plays the child version of character Randall Pearson in TV series “This Is Us.”

Nattiv’s very first film, the 2003 seven-minute “Strangers,” which he said was made in his backyard, was also shortlisted for an Oscar.

An upcoming full-length feature, also called “Skin” and based on the white supremacist culture of his Oscar-winning short, has already been screened at recent film festivals in Toronto and Berlin, and will be released in theaters this summer.

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