Fine Cut

Q&A: 'The Promised Land' Director Vanessa Knutsen

The Promised Land

"The Promised Land" is a UCLA thesis film shot on location in Israel and directed by Vanessa Knutsen. The movie aired as part of the 2014 edition of "Fine Cut," KCET's 17th annual festival of student films.

Vanessa Knutsen

Here, we speak with Vanessa about a newspaper article that inspired the film.

Vanessa Knutsen's Bio:

Vanessa Knutsen is an Israeli-American filmmaker living in Los Angeles. After completing her service in the Israeli Army, she moved to the U.S. to pursue her undergraduate studies at Yale University. She is a recent graduate of the UCLA MFA directing program where she wrote and directed four short films.

Her thesis film, "The Promised Land," had its world premiere at the Palm Springs International ShortsFest, where it was awarded best student short film and Cinema Without Borders. The movie has since screened at several festivals across the U.S. and abroad. Vanessa is currently an instructor at UCLA Extension and is launching her first feature film, "The Healer," which was a finalist for the 2014 Sundance Screenwriter's Lab.

Q&A with Vanessa Knutsen:

Describe how the idea for this film originated.

The idea for the film was triggered by a newspaper article I read one summer while visiting family in Israel. It was a profile on the commander of the Israeli Immigration Authority and his struggle with PTSD after having orchestrated several operations that resulted in the removal of thousands of illegal foreigners from the country. This was the moment I became aware of this crisis and it's political and social ramifications. About a year or so after reading the article, my mother called me in a panic telling me that our housekeeper's flat had been raided (a second time) by immigration authorities and that she had invited her to stay in our home. She was basically calling to let me know that my room was now occupied. There was my story.

The Promised Land

How/When did you decide you wanted to be a filmmaker?

I've always been fascinated with storytelling, but it was during my undergraduate years at Yale University that I discovered filmmaking as a medium to continue exploring this passion.

What influences have inspired your work?

Pedro Almodovar, Maurice Pialat, and Woody Allen.

Name you top three favorite films.

"Talk to Her," "In the Mood for Love," and "Before Sunset."

What is next for you?

I'm in development/pre-production on my debut feature, "The Healer." It's a coming-of-age story set in Israel dealing with dysfunctional family dynamics, an impossible love affair, teenage angst, and human fallibility.

How can we follow you?


Click here to watch the film.

The Promised Land