Award Winning Israeli Film ‘Zero Motivation’ Pushing Boundaries For Female Protagonists


The Golden Globes started the Hollywood award season on a high for women in the industry in all aspects. Less than a week later, the highly-anticipated Oscar nominations were released and everyone’s collective jaws dropped at the obvious snub of women and minorities. The majority of nominees were white and male, despite the dearth of amazing talent and incredible productions being made by women.

On the same day nominations were announced, another lesser known film hit theaters here in the states, and it was a welcome relief to the incredulous blindness of the Film Academy.

The film is called ‘Zero Motivation’ from Zeitgeist films and it is one of the most-talked about movies of the year. Set in Israel and directed by Israeli woman Talya Lavie, the film follows 3 young female soldiers in a remote Israeli desert outpost. Best friends Zohar (Dana Ivgy) and Daffi (Nelly Tagar) spend their time playing video games, singing pop songs, jousting with stationery and dreaming of Tel Aviv.

The indolent twosome are watched over by their aspiring senior officer, Rama (Shani Klein), who dreams of a higher position and a significant military career, but with a platoon of unskilled, idle, female soldiers without any drive under her charge, her ambitions for promotion are constantly thwarted.


The film is described as M*A*S*H meets ‘Orange is the New Black’ and is certainly set to add to the slew of great content that is pushing the boundaries when it comes to female protagonists.

Director Talya was inspired to make the film after her own experience in the military.

“I dreamed of making an army movie with the pathos and epic proportions of classic war-films, but about the gray, mundane experiences that my office mates and I had, hardly ever getting up from our chairs. Like most girls during their two years of service, we didn’t risk our lives. But we were definitely in danger of dying of boredom,” she said in a statement.

“I was inspired and amused by the idea of using envelopes, coffee cups, office intrigues, staple guns, and Solitaire to create a female response to the male-dominated army films genre. Israeli women may of course serve in more glamorous roles, like pilots or tank crew instructors. But I wanted to focus on us office girls, the unseen and mostly-ignored majority whose contribution is lacking any social or symbolic value.”

In an exclusive interview with GTHQ, Talya expanded on the significance of a film like this, and why it is being so well-received (it was the biggest film of the year in Israel earning more than any other films including Hollywood releases there, and won the Best Narrative Feature Award at the Tribeca Film Festival).


You say you wanted to juxtapose the many military films showing men with heavy weapons, but portraying the office girls with office supplies, what message did you want to send with this decision? 

I wanted to be truthful and to show things as they are. The fact is that these young women don’t have access to firearms, at least not on a day-to-day basis. Since ‘Zero Motivation’ is also a takeoff on traditional army films, I figured that in “wartime” the characters should use the office supplies as their weapons.

Besides the comic element of it, I think that through the story of these office girls, the film provides an authentic comic-tragic glimpse into the Israeli militaristic society.

The three main characters all have their own internal struggles with power, how hard is it for women in the Israeli military to progress?

I can imagine it’s not easy, as I see only few women in the very high ranks. Probably most of the armies around the world are male dominated. But in Israel the IDF is a major institute that effects all parts of society, culturally and politically.

How do you hope this film will be received in Israel as well as the rest of the world? 

‘Zero Motivation’ was released in Israel six months ago and was very well received, much more than we could imagine, it broke box-office records in Israel and won 6 Israeli Academy Awards (for best script, best director, best leading actress, best editing, best casting and best original score) and the Israeli Critics’ Award for best Israeli film. Now we’re very excited to have it shown in the USA. The mandatory military service is a very local aspect of the Israeli culture but it’s used in the film as a platform to tell a universal coming of age story, about friendship and about being a young woman.

Historically we haven’t seen many films where women are playing complex characters, but there has been a bit of an influx recently with movies like ‘Wild’ and with this film. How do you hope ‘Zero Motivation’ will change the way audience view women in film? 

I actually think that throughout history of cinema there have been some great films about complex female characters. In my opinion male directors can make great films about woman and female directors can make great films about men. Cinema is all about point of view. But the gap between male and female filmmakers is outrageous, number wise. Hopefully it will change and then we won’t have to deal with this issue anymore.

How do you hope female-driven and created films like yours will changes the way the industry chooses films to finance and make?

Recently we hear more and more about the need in more diverse female voices in cinema. In Israel the film industry is similar to the European structure, which means it’s based mostly on government funds. That allows the decision makers to make some more social and artistic considerations. In Hollywood the industry is a real business, and films have to repay the money that was put in them. Despite that, and maybe because of that, and also since Hollywood is so powerful – the gender gap issue must change there in order to effect the rest of the world.


Check out the trailer to ‘Zero Motivation’ and get your butts to the cinema to support a film that is part of the changing face of international cinema:

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.