Possibly the most exciting thing to have happened to me in my long life is knowing that my historical novel, The Pomegranate Pendant, was to be made into a movie. Despite having written 13 books, I never expected one of them to be shown on the silver screen.
Writing is something I have always done out of love. My first poem was published in a children’s paper when I was seven years old in my native Australia. In my teens I wrote short stories for women’s magazines. Then, when I was 19, I spent a few years in London, and wrote a few radio scripts for the BBC. My real writing career took off when I came to live in Jerusalem with my husband and four children in 1971, and gradually fell in love with this holy city .
There are many reasons for this. The truth is that, until then, I had nothing meaningful to write about, certainly nothing unique. But, life is something that happens to you when you’re not looking and, when it touches you, often poems and stories appear like bruises. Maybe that’s how my book of poems, Woman of Jerusalem, came to be written.
However, the novel that became a movie was The Golden Pomegranate, which I first published in 1995 with Feldheim in New York & Israel. It was really a matter of incredible luck. Robert Bleiweiss of California came to Israel to attend an international media conference in 1996 and I had the good fortune to sit next to him and his wife at dinner at the Hilton. He said he would like to read my novel and, shortly afterwards, he said he wanted to make it into a movie. I was flattered, but didn’t really believe it would ever happen. However, he eventually became the scriptwriter of the movie, the major investor, and the producer.
It was a difficult birth – for many reasons. The first day of shooting was not until March 2009. The name was changed for the movie to “The Golden Pomegranate” and it was shot over 25 days at a beautiful site in Israel called Beit Jamal, a convent where there were some old, unused buildings dating back hundreds of years. They were transformed into ancient Yemen and also a Yemenite Jewellers in Jerusalem’s Old City in 1882. It was directed by Dan Turgeman, a famous Israeli movie star and director. To my great astonishment, I was given a cameo part, as a guest at a wedding but, if you blinked, you missed it.
The novel, and the movie (which mostly follows it faithfully), is the story of Mazal, a Jewish child bride from Yemen who escapes the hardships and oppression of her native land by coming to Jerusalem in 1882. She preserves her religion and culture, and raises a family while surviving the harsh, violent conditions in the Holy Land in the late 19th to mid–20th century. Her skills as a silversmith sustain the family after she is widowed and the book, and movie, span four generations of a family of Yemenite jewellers at the vortex of history in the Land of Israel.
While the movie has been a great success artistically, and played to standing ovations, sadly it has been far from a blockbuster financially. There were many private showings and, in 2010, it was shown at the Jerusalem International Film Festival and Cinema City in Israel was granted all-rights distribution. It was shown at the Cannes Festival to great enthusiasm; and premiered in Israel on Dec, 23rd, 2012, playing in 10 cities for 5 weeks. It has had many rave reviews but little commercial success.
I was paid $5000 up front for the rights and I own 1/25th of the movie. I have not had any further income from it although, if it ever has a reincarnation, I may earn more. I didn’t have to invest anything and was treated as a V.I.P. throughout, presented with a beautiful bouquet on stage at the premiere, etc. Cinema City paid for a lavish premiere in Israel, with Yemenite music and food/champagne for 400 guests. It was one of the most exciting nights of my life. One of the problems was that it was shown in the middle of winter – snow and blizzards here – so people stayed home. I feel that if it had been summer, it would have been a great financial success, as well as an artistic one.
It was exciting while it lasted and I have great admiration for Robert Bleiweiss, who never gave up on it. He fulfilled his original promise that he would make a movie out of it, raised the money, wrote the script, and eventually made the dream come true. It also helped with sales of the book, now published by Chaim Mazo Publishers in Jerusalem. It is still being sold after 19 years, with Book Clubs still inviting me to come and talk about it. I gave a talk at a book club a few days ago, for 65 women, and, although I took a selection of my 13 books with me, the one that everyone wanted and that I sold out of, was “The Pomegranate Pendant.”
NOTE: WritersWeekly is interested in hearing from other authors whose novels have been made into movies, but only authors who did not have to buy any “your book can be a movie!” products/services (or who made any financial investment in the movie in order to make it happen). Contact Angela HERE.
DVORA WAYSMAN was born in Melbourne, Australia and came to Israel in 1971 with her husband and four children, who are now parents themselves of 18 beautiful children. She lives in Jerusalem and is the author of 13 books including : MY LONG JOURNEY HOME, BACK OF BEYOND (Pitspopany), THE
POMEGRANATE PENDANT (in English, Hebrew and French – and now released in paperback by Chaim Mazo Publishers, and made into a movie under the title The Golden Pomegranate, WOMAN OF JERUSALEM – poetry and essays (Gefen), lead story in Detective Stories for Kids (Pitspopany), ESTHER, a Jerusalem Love Story (published by HCI, Florida) and the sequel to The Pomegranate Pendant – Seeds of the Pomegranate, In A Good Pasture published by Chaim Mazo Publishers, and AUTUMN BLESSING, an e-book published by Prism Book Group, USA.
Writing is the love of her life, and a wonderful form of therapy. “Whatever I am working on, whether it’s fiction, poetry or factual pieces, I gain great fulfilment,” she says. Often fiction and poetry are combined, as in her novel, Esther. Her articles are syndicated in 28 newspapers around the world, and she is a teacher of Creative Writing and Journalism. She was the recipient of the ” For Jerusalem” citation for her fiction, poems and features about the city; and the Seeff Award for Best Foreign Correspondent. For 12 years, she worked as the English Press Officer of Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem with which she still has a warm relationship. She was recently nominated by NA’AMAT in the U.S.A. as “a woman who has made a difference in literature” alongside other influential women in different fields such as sport, music, art, politics etc. Her novel, The Pomegranate Pendant, has been made into a movie by Praxis Films in Israel and Gershom Productions in U.S.A.