In A Dream


Written by Heydon Prowse
18 Friday 18th December 2009

In a Dream is a family film. The director is Jeremiah Zagar. The main character is his father Isaiah Zagar, an eccentric artist who over the past four decades has covered more than 50,000 square feet of Philadelphia with stunning mosaic murals. The murals chronicle his love for his wife, Julia, and hint at the darker corners of an outlandish imagination. The film took Jeremiah about seven years to complete.

It starts as a beautifully shot window into the world of an artist and his family. But suddenly the family is torn apart at the seams: a few hours before picking up his oldest son from a rehabilitation center, Isaiah declares to the camera, "As people get older they have less and less passion." He then confesses to an affair with his assistant, is kicked out of the house, and spirals into suicidal depression.

The movie is a fascinating portrait of love and betrayal, family bonds, and the intimacy of dysfunction, shot on 35mm, Hi Def, digital video; with 8mm and 16mm home movie footage. We spoke to director and son Jaremiah Zagar.

Finding a suitable subject for a documentary can be difficult, but yours was on your doorstep. How difficult is it to see members of your family as subjects of a film rather than 'mother' or 'father'?

I never wanted to make a movie about my family. I was making a short film about a clinic in India - an orphanage. I came home for the summer to teach. My mother suggested that I start filming. So I began filming because of my mother.

IN A DREAM: Theatrical Trailer from Herzliya Films on Vimeo.


IN A DREAM: Theatrical Trailer from Herzliya Films on Vimeo.

Was it necessary for you to try to remove yourself emotionally from these family dramas in order to complete the film?

Yes. In order to film anything you have to. You’re kind of invincible with a camera in front of your face. You’re removed from the family dynamic. But of course you’re not removed because you’re also in it. But no matter what happens you can withstand it because you have this camera. You don’t recognise how it’s affecting you until afterwards.

I was editing the film as it was still happening. So my relationship with my family and the movie were evolving together. For example, the final scene where they buy the warehouse – which is kind of a new start for my parents and their relationship - that happened much later. I didn’t realise that was going to be the ending until it happened. So my parents buying that warehouse helped the film, but also helped the family.

Do you think the process of making this film was a cathartic process for you and your family? Did it need to happen?

Yes. It has help my family understand themselves. For example my brother has just gone through some more hard times and my father was trying to figure out how to understand him so he turned on the movie.

Isaiah and Julia Zagar

So is it an objective view of your family do you think? Or is it as seen through your eyes?

Through my eyes obviously. But it’s a collaborative process. Nobody in the family is uncomfortable with it. They were comfortable with the way I portrayed them.

It is a very honest film. How important is honesty to you and your family?

It’s a very honest family. My parents believe very strongly in honesty. The turning point in the film comes when my parents’ relationship stops being honest. It’s not just my father. The affair is a manifestation of two people growing apart. And then the breakdown of their relationship serves as a kind of wake up call to how much they valued that honesty in the first place.

How long did it take you to make this movie?

Seven years. Well... what you’re watching is over three years. I started filming dad when I was 19, in 2000. He and I went out to West Virginia together that summer. In the beginning I asked him about his suicide attempt. That is the footage you see at the beginning of the film with him sitting and looking directly at the camera. That was background stuff. After that I knew there would be a movie. It was so powerful. He talked about his memories of childhood and how much he loves my mother. I knew there would be a story line. I just had to wait for it to happen.

So I went home to film whenever anything happened. I went back when my brother was put in a pseudo mental institution (rehab), which was cyclical because my father had also been in one in his youth. And I thought that would be the story, but then my father just admitted the affair to me and it took a different direction. The moment I found out is the moment you see in the film. And after that I shot for 17 hours straight.


When is it released?

It’ll be out in States in March. Not sure when it’ll be released in the UK. We’re trying to get a theatrical release. Hopefully Storyville or Channel Four will buy it. We finished making it just before SXSW Festival last year where it had its first screening. I finished editing the night before.

How was it received at SXSW?

It had a good reception. It’s so personal and I didn’t know how people would react to it. I sat down next to a woman and she didn’t move for the entire film and then at the end she just walked straight out. I thought she must have hated it, but then the next day she had come again to see the movie.


Don't Panic attempt to credit photographers and content owners wherever possible, however due to the sheer size and nature of the internet this is sometimes impractical or impossible. If you see any images on our site which you believe belong to yourself or another and we have incorrectly used it please let us know at and we will respond asap.