Meet Michal Aviad

October 27, 2019 by Toni Susskind
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Michal Aviad is a director, scriptwriter, producer and senior lecturer at the Department of Cinema and Television in Tel Aviv University. Best known for her documentaries, Working Woman is a fictitious narrative that focuses on sexual and psychological harassment in the workplace.

Michal Aviad

J-Wire’s Toni Susskind recently had the opportunity to discuss the film with Michal and ask her a few questions. 

Was there a particular moment that inspired you to write Working Woman?

The issue has interested me for a long time. Sexual violence occurs every-day, yet the women who are affected by it, often have no choice but to ignore it and just go on with their life. 


Statistics show that between 86% -93% of women who are sexually harassed decide not to complain. This occurs for several reasons. For starters, it is difficult to prove that the harassment occurred, as it often comes down to one person’s word over another. If your superior says that nothing happened, and there are no witnesses, there is no evidence to support your claim. In the end, it is his word against yours.  Even more so, complaining can be a risk. If you rely on your income to survive, you cannot afford to take the chance that someone may or may not believe you.  

Generally, women do not complain as they know it doesn’t do any good. I made the movie to explain that the laws are not enough. There are so many issues that cannot be controlled. For example, in the movie Orna’s boss Benny turns the lights on and off. It’s not illegal what he does, but it intimidates and scares Orna. The movie highlights the behavioural and psychological changes that lead to harassment. 

Was it a difficult film to make and why not make it as a documentary like your previous films?

All films are difficult to make, however, when I first had the idea, I was surprised to see that this type of film did not already exist. I could not find any examples of similar films. This is the second fiction film I have made and did not see this movie as a viable documentary. It’s too different. I am a realist filmmaker and I spoke to many women, however, in order to tell the story the way I wanted to, it was not possible as a piece of non- fiction. There were too many variables.  Following women around and waiting for something to happen was not an option.  

Was there much influence from the # Me Too movement?

Working Woman was already in production and filming when the #Me Too movement became known, so there was no influence or connection between the two. #Me Too is about famous women who expose their attacker, Working Woman is about the anonymous women. The ones who do not complain as they know it doesn’t do them any good. 

What has the public reaction been to the film?

The reaction has been positive. The movie was nominated for Best feature film, Best screenplay and won Best Actress at the Ophir Awards (Israel’s version of the academy awards). When I get reactions from women, most are “Wow it happened to me.” It reaffirms what many women have gone through, whilst the men are “Wow, now I understand what it is all about.” The film creates an understanding of the issue, its volatility and how destructive sexual and psychological harassment can be. It highlights the fact that in order to go forward, there needs to be changes to our laws and understanding of what constitutes acceptable relationships. 



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