Female rebellion on film

Quebec filmmaker Elza Kephart will premiere her latest film Go in the Wilderness at this year’s Festival du nouveau cinéma. We spoke to her about her experience filming in northern Quebec and her take on the Lilith story.


Go into the Wilderness

Elza Kephart’s latest film Go in the Wilderness, which premieres at the Festival du nouveau cinéma, takes a unique and contemporary look at the Jewish mythological character of Lilith.

The film follows the story of Adam’s first wife, who doesn’t want to be subservient and flees Eden. Eventually she returns with her guardian to discover that Adam is now shacked up with Eve, and that “Paradise” isn’t exactly what is seems.

I spoke to Kephart via email this week about her process and her decision to focus on Lilith.

Lilith in the wilderness
Lilith and her guardian in the wilderness

Kayla Marie Hillier: Why did you choose to look at the story of Lilith? What attracted you to the idea?
Elza Kephart: I found out about the myth of Lilith by reading a book called The Devil in Legend and Literature. There was a chapter on Lilith detailing her story. She is created at the same time as Adam and refuses to be subservient, so she flies out of Eden and ends up on the shores of the red sea. Angels come to bring her back but she refuses. She then has to make her way in the world, alone.

Something about that story really struck a chord. I wanted to explore the story of this woman who ends up in a totally foreign world and has no bearings; she has to learn everything we take for granted. And then to explore what happens when she “goes home” and realizes she can’t go home because she’s changed completely, and the sadness that comes with that, but the empowerment as well.

KMH: Did you have any concerns considering the varied interpretations of Lilith?
EK: Not really, as there is actually very little literature on Lilith, only very loose stories, and few people know about Lilith. To this day, I am surprised how few. So I actually felt I had a lot of freedom to interpret the story from my perspective. The only concern I have is that if people come [to] see a supernatural movie about an evil she-demon, they are in for a surprise when they fall on an existential art-house film!

Lilith and her guardian asleep in the woods

KMH: The landscapes in the film are beautiful — where did you film primarily?
EK: We shot two-thirds of the wilderness on the north shore, one-third in Charlevoix, then Eden around Montreal and in Ontario. I urge everyone to visit the north shore of Quebec. It is a truly wild, life-altering experience! Many crew members came back from the shoot totally moved by that landscape, including myself.

KMH: Did you encounter any obstacles shooting Go in the Wilderness?
EK: The main obstacle was our super restrained budget, and the enormity of what we were trying to achieve with it: travelling with cast and crew 1200 kilometres east of Montreal, shooting in bug-infested swamps, shooting with only available light, shooting on an island — let’s not forget the nudity! But I have to give a huge shout-out to all the cast and crew, whose dedication and generosity made it happen! They took on this Herzogian dream of mine and turned it into reality. ■

Go in the Wilderness screens at the Festival du nouveau cinéma, at Quartier Latin (350 Emery) on Oct. 11, 7 p.m. and at Pavillon Judith-Jasmin annexe (1564 St-Denis) on Oct. 19, 3 p.m., $12

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