Sitting down at Deadline’s Toronto Studio to promote Tali Shalom-Ezer’s third feature, My Days of Mercy, actresses Ellen Page, Kate Mara and Amy Seimetz are among the busiest working today, if their TIFF tally is any reflection.
In addition to the Israeli director’s intimate drama, each actress has another project screening at this year’s festival. For Page, it’s unusual zombie family drama The Cured; for Mara, it’s would be political drama Chappaquiddick; and for Seimetz, it’s the second season of her acclaimed Starz drama series, The Girlfriend Experience.
In the case of My Days of Mercy, there is a film to talk about only because of the talented women behind it who, looking for an opportunity to work with one another, ultimately created that opportunity for themselves as producers on the project.
“The script had been around eight years; the movie wasn’t really necessarily going to get made,” Mara explains. “[Ellen and I] just really wanted to work together, so we thought, We’re not necessarily being sent any offer right this second to work together, so let’s just make it happen on our own, and producing seemed like the obvious way of making that happen quickly.”
Starring Page as the daughter of a man on death row who falls in love with a woman (Mara) on the opposing side of her family’s political cause, the film isn’t issue-driven, or a “gay film”—rather, it’s a compassionate, nuanced human drama about characters who happen to share the same sex, the sort of story that is needed in times of extreme political division.
“I think the most interesting thing to me about the film, personally, is that [Shalom-Ezer] doesn’t see it as an issue-driven thing, but I think the most important thing, and something I strive for in my work as a writer and director, as well, is creating full characters, and they just happen to be gay,” Seimetz says. “Whether they’re gay or straight, the humanness of the story is the most important thing. I think that to label it a ‘gay movie’ is [similar to] the way that, as a female writer-director, I always try to get away from people saying, ‘It’s a female movie.’ I think that’s ostracizing in some way.”
Discussing the film, Page continued this conversation, examining the difference between celebrating projects with queer characters and trying to place such projects in a box. “We have, like most movies, these narratives that parallel each other. In most movies, it’s a narrative with a love story, and this just happens to be a same-sex story,” Page reflects. “It’s that mixture of being proud to have queer characters, being proud to tell queer stories, but not wanting your film defined that way, and having this sort of narrow idea of it, when I think it’s very similar to traditional American narrative, in terms of a character dealing with very severe obstacles—repression, profound grief—and then having love enter her world, and that expanding her.”
To view Deadline’s TIFF conversation with My Days of Mercy director Tali Shalom-Ezer and her cast, click above.
Deadline Studio at TIFF 2017 is presented by Calii Love, Watford Group, Philosophy Canada, and Equinox. Special thanks to Dan Gunam at Calii Love for location and production assistance; and Ontario Camera for equipment assistance. Video producer: Meaghan Gable; lighting and camera: Neil Hansen; design: Dialla Kawar; sound recording: Ida Jokinen.