Golda director Guy Nattiv was born and raised in Israel and cut his teeth in advertising before transitioning to film. Though he primarily does productions in the U.S. now, he never forgets his roots — and in Golda, which stars Helen Mirren as the former prime minster of his home country, he celebrates the woman known as the Iron Lady of Israel.

The film, from a screenplay by Nicholas Martin, focuses especially on Meir’s challenges during the Yom Kipper War, also known as the Ramadan War or the October War. It was an armed conflict from October 6 to 25, 1973, between Israel and an alliance of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria.

Nattiv, 50, whose 2018 short film “Skin” won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film, believes the film’s producers appreciated his perspective on the story.

“I think they chose me because I’m Jewish and Israeli. I think they find it more authentic in a way,” he says.

MovieMaker recently spoke with Guy Nattiv about the joys of directing, the pressures of a biopic, and his very intriguing new collaboration.

Sonya Alexander: How do you feel your career in advertising prepared you to be a director?

Guy Nattiv: It did not at all! [Laughs.] No — when I directed commercials, it gave me a lot of tools to understand more about filmmaking. The commercial world is based on a client’s demands and a product. A movie isn’t a product. It needs a heart, soul, and a story. There are cases when a movie is a product, and you don’t want to be a part of that.

Sonya Alexander: How did you get attached to Golda?

Guy Nattiv: Golda was an open assignment. There was already a script. I had to compete with other directors to be considered to direct it. I made my pitch. Helen Mirren was already attached because Golda’s grandson thought she was the right person to play the role. I thought the film was leaning more towards a war movie and I wanted to focus more on Golda.

Golda director Guy Nattiv

Sonya Alexander: How do you feel being Israeli informed your vision for the film?

Guy Nattiv: I think I brought a lot of authenticity to this film. That fact that Israelis can see this film and feel it’s authentic, even though it’s in English. It’s international but it also speaks to them. It’s real. 

Guy Nattiv on Filming Golda From Above

Sonya Alexander: I noticed a few overhead shots of Meir, particularly when she was getting in the car. Was that supposed to symbolize something?

Guy Nattiv: Yes. Most of the areas she’s in are claustrophobic. The corridors and those closed rooms. They’re all so pressing. The top shot gives you even more stress. You feel like something’s about to happen.

Sonya Alexander: What would you say was your most successful day on the set?

Guy Nattiv: The most exciting scene to shoot was Helen with Liev Schreiber as Henry Kissinger. That was a masterclass in acting. 

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Sonya Alexander: How did you find the balance between intimacy and the war?

Guy Nattiv: It’s hard. There’s no blood in the movie. I felt it was more original to hear the sounds of the war rather than to shoot it outside. Also, having a lot of quiet moments. It was a balance between poetry and war talks.

Sonya Alexander: What do you want people’s biggest takeaway to be from the film? 

Guy Nattiv: Some people in Israel think that Golda is an ice cream. They don’t know who she is! Some people dislike her. Some people love her.

When I was 14, I saw a movie that blew my mind. It was Gandhi, with Ben Kingsley. And then I saw The Last Emperor and was blown away by that too. Great films about historical figures are fascinating to me. They’re not only giving you knowledge about the person, but they’re also giving you a glimpse of humanity through this person.

When I watched Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, I was blown away. So, I want people to go, “Who is this Golda?” She’s a pioneer, the first woman to lead a country. She paved the way for Angela Merkel. She was ahead of her time. There wasn’t anyone like her. I want people to know she’s a very important part of history. 

Sonya Alexander: What’s next on your plate?

Guy Nattiv: My next film is already shot. It’s called Tatami. It’s about the first Israeli and Iranian collaboration in judo. I co-directed it with an Iranian woman, Zar Amir Ebrahimi. It happens in one night and in one location. It’s going to premiere at the Venice Film Festival

Sonya Alexander: What do you find most rewarding about directing?

Guy Nattiv: Creating reality and telling stories that move people. And bringing people together. Making art that connects people is the best thing. 

Golda arrives in theaters Friday.

Main image: Helen Mirren as Golda Meir in Golda.