[“The camera became a friend”]
While shooting, Vloch was also forced to face unpleasant moments of which there were quite a few. In the film on Dafi, for example, there is a scene that presents the lung transplant process, during which the physician presents the complete lung to the camera.
How did you dare stand in the operating room?
“At first, I was indeed worried that I would not be able to cope with the operating room learned how to get along. Looking at things through the camera viewer make them a bit easier to handle. Being in an operating room is not easy. It’s not easy to go out to a family that is trying to pump you for information.
“Right from the beginning, there is an agreement with the family that all medical testimony will be provided by the medical staff only. You obtain a great deal of information and you have to maintain boundaries, otherwise you lose your identity”.
What did being in this environment all the time, feel like?
“Unlike a doctor or nurse who undergo some kind of preparation, you are not only sucked in by what you see, you also take the sights home with you. I feel that beyond the great story that I’m getting, I am also getting great people. Luckily, I work with editors who know what to do and how to filter the material that I give them, so I have the privilege of remembering that I am making a movie. There are very few barriers during the creative process. When you have the camera on your shoulder, you can do everything, otherwise you can’t bring the viewer with the results you were sent to achieve”.
Do you feel that the presence of the camera changes something in how the subjects lead their lives?
“I think so. But the long presence by the camera leads to a situation in which it becomes part of their natural environment. The same person is shooting all of the time. At a certain point, they get used to it. I think that, to some extent, the camera became their friend and some kind of source for relief”.
And were people willing to expose themselves to you?
“Introducing yourself and asking for cooperation is not an easy stage. There are always initial suspicions. Sharon, Haim’s girlfriend, didn’t want to be on film at first, but she eventually opened up to the camera too.
Were there ever situations in which you felt that you were in the way, stuck in the middle?
“There was one instance of a 16 year old boy that I accompanied to valve replacement surgery. There were complications during the operation. The complications did not result from something that the doctor had done, but just because they sometimes occur in cases like these. It was very hard for me. I know what the family outside is waiting to hear, and the news is not going to be good. When the doctor told them what happened and began preparing the parents for tragedy, I appreciated the doctor saying to me: “Let’s go talk to the family”. If he hadn’t said that, I would not have dared.
“It was an 18-hour procedure; the boy went into the heart transplant waiting list and died while waiting. I am human and I surely did not want that kind of ending. And then I asked myself: “What now? Should I air the film or not?” I went to the family, which made me one of their own, and they said that they trust my judgment. Beyond being a story, I consider it to be a film for promoting awareness to organ donations”.
[“I realized that my life had changed”]
In the world of documentary creation, reality exceeds imagination – at least in Veloch’s case. In the middle of the shooting process, as if a cynical director decided on a dramatic twist of fate, the director became part of the film itself. Veloch: “I began feeling bad 18 months ago, suffering from fevers, terrible sweats. I felt exhausted. I went to the doctor and said: “I bet you’re going to tell me that I have cancer”. “I underwent all of the tests and two weeks later she said that I had mumps and that it would pass. I continued to feel bad and went to see a general practitioner that was filling in for my doctor, who went on maternity leave. He referred me to an ENT (Ear Nose Throat) specialist who sent me to get a biopsy.
“Despite his request, the general practitioner said: ‘You have mumps, there’s no reason for you to remove your head for it’. I went home, happily, but continued to feel bad. I returned to the doctor with the thought of taking antibiotics, but he sent me to the emergency room.
“I was so scared that I didn’t ask what I had. I underwent a biopsy and was called to the hematological department two weeks later. At the hospital, the doctor said: ‘You have cancer and it’s malignant’. I was in shock. I found myself wandering around the Givatayim mall, looking at nice things and with no desire to buy. I thought to myself: from now on, I don’t have to buy a thing. I realized that my life had changed”.
Veloch’s lymphoma was detected at the highest degree of severity. One week after being notified of the disease, he was hospitalized after one of his lungs had failed and his bone marrow had been ruined.
In those moments, did you feel a connection with the heroes in your films?
“It’s a little different when it’s about you, but it is quite possible. There is no doubt that when I looked at Haim, whose life changed completely at 16 and who promoted himself, I said to myself that if he can then I can too. That’s the beauty of these films. My encounter with people who cope with a difficult physical reality enabled me to take things in proportion.
“When you see people who are in terrible distress and who manage to overcome it, you feel energized. In addition, my acquaintance with the place helped me get around within the hospital”.
And when did you decide to turn the camera onto you?
“I have been involved in documentation my entire life. At a certain point, the camera becomes your friend. I felt that it would be the right thing for the series and that I actually gained a new subject. I had long hair at the time. Ronit Popper brought her friend, a hair stylist, because I was about to get my first chemo treatment and I opted for gradual change over sudden shock. The entire family came in with video cameras and documented the haircut”.
Did you treat yourself like any other subject of yours?
“I took it all the way, including the tests during the process of chemotherapy. A bone marrow transplant is not the same as surgery. Everything is intravenous. In cinematic terms, it is not very interesting, but my exposure in the hospital was unconstrained, just as I demanded from my subjects – there were no limits for me either”.
Did you also consider a scenario without a happy end?
“The only thing I said to my nephew Yaron was: ‘You know where the rough cuts are. If I am not here one day, you know how to complete the project’. I knew I would be going through a very difficult ordeal.”
“The day before I was discharged following the bone marrow transplant, I said to the doctor: ‘If you’re letting me go, it must mean that I beat the cancer’. He smiled and said: ‘a Western medicine defines victory after five years of remission’. I smiled back and said: ‘Can you promise me that you’ll be here in five years?’ That is how I decided to look at things to make it easier”.
Are you an optimist?
“Very much so. One of the things that captivated me with Haim is his optimism. Dafi’s optimism was loud and clear and in my case, too, I didn’t consider any possibility but victory”.