'Golda' Filmmaker's Next Movie Is Inspired By His Holocaust Survivor Grandmother Joining a Cult – Kveller
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‘Golda’ Filmmaker’s Next Movie Is Inspired By His Holocaust Survivor Grandmother Joining a Cult

"Harmonia" will star Naomi Watts as Guy Nattiv's grandmother, who left her family in Jerusalem in the 1980s to join a cult in Virginia.


Israeli filmmaker Guy Nattiv’s next movie is going to be his most personal project yet. While “Golda,” his 2023 biopic about Israel’s first female Prime Minister Golda Meir, brought him close to the life story of his father, a Yom Kippur War veteran, he will now be telling an enthralling tale about something that tore his family apart.

Nattiv recently announced his next feature film will be titled “Harmonia,” and is based on his grandmother’s story of joining a cult.

The movie already has an all-star cast, including Naomi Watts, who will play his grandmother, Rita, or at least a character based on her, who becomes entranced by a cult leader played by Vicky Krieps (“Phantom Thread”). Bella Ramsey (“The Last of Us”) and Odessa Young will play her daughters, who try to extricate her from the cult, only to be drawn into the cult leader’s “labyrinthine web of psycho-spiritual manipulation,” according to the film synopsis.

“My grandmother was a Holocaust survivor,” Nattiv told Ynet back in 2020. “At age 55, when she began to experience depression and post-trauma due to the Holocaust, she met, through her esthetician, a charismatic woman who really influenced her. Later, it was discovered that she was the head of a cult in Jerusalem called Harmonia.”

Nattiv went on to explain that she then “got sucked into that world and left my grandfather, and severed her connection with the family. The head of the cult, whose name is Nogah Lord, basically moved these women from Jerusalem to an isolated farm in Virginia, and that’s where my grandmother lived. She was her right hand, and you see how her daughters try to save her [in the movie]. She died there.”

According to Nattiv, his grandmother, who died in 1997, is buried somewhere in Buckingham, Virginia, where the cult’s farm was located.

His grandfather Reuven and Rita had lived in Kibbutz Lohamei HaGeta’ot. They were both survivors from Poland who met as youth after the war. For his grandfather, the greatest revenge was to have children and grandchildren. “I didn’t grow up on Superman and Spider-Man, my grandfather and grandmother were my heroes,” Nattiv shared in that same interview with Ynet. Nattiv dedicated his Academy Award-winning film “Skin” to his grandfather, who gave him his blessing to make a movie about a neo-Nazi, but who didn’t live to see the film itself, passing away before it was completed at age 94.

“I have been waiting decades until I was emotionally ready to confront my beloved grandmother’s story, which has haunted my family since I was a child,” Nattiv shared in a recent press release. “As a woman in the 1980s going through a midlife crisis, my grandmother made the radical choice to leave my family and embed herself in an all-female cult, in an obsessive pursuit of happiness and meaning. The core of this movie is today’s very real, beguiling, and profligate threat of coercion and manipulation by any cult of dominant personality. I am honored to collaborate on my most personal film with the brilliant Naomi, Vicky, Bella and Odessa, who will bring their extraordinary talents to the terrifying and unique world of ‘Harmonia.'”

The cult leader is still around, though she apparently had previously worked adjacent to moviemaking, as a typist at Columbia Studios. She later became a dancer. According to her website, dancing is how she first started communicating directly with God. She later got into meditation and traveled to India to study in the ashram of the religious leader Babaji. According to the biography on her website, which she uses to sell inspirational postcards and posters, she is currently building a healing center in Portugal.

Nattiv’s wife, Jamie Ray Newman, who shares the Oscar for “Skin” with him, will be co-producing the movie as part of their outfit, New Native Film. Julia Lebedev, Eric Viasman and Oren Moverman are all signed on as producers, too. Nattiv co-wrote the script with Noa Berman-Hertzberg, who previously collaborated with Nattiv on the 2010 film “Mabul.” Berman-Herzberg also co-wrote the animated short “Holy Holocaust,” about a pair of Israeli and German friends whose friendship is shaken when they realize the latter is the daughter of a notorious Nazi. The movie is based on Berman-Herzberg’s friendship with author Jennifer Teege, the granddaughter SS commander Amon Göth.

“Harmonia” is set to start filming this fall.

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