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Filmmaker Interview with David Serero

Filmmaker Interview by Chris Olson, Amber Jackson, and Chris Buick

Filmmaker Interview with David Serero
Filmmaker Interview with David Serero

Why/how did you decide to tell Elie Tahari's story? What was most inspiring to you as a filmmaker?

I had the pleasure to meet Elie when I honoured him at the NY Sephardic Film Festival; I was passionate about his journey and thought that his unique story and the fashion world would be amazing to tell. I also love the era of Studio 54, from which Elie was part. I'm originally a "stage guy," and it was my first film. I have a signature on my stage work, and I wanted to bring it also on my movie.

How important was it that you keep family at the centre of your documentary?

It's part of Elie's life. He is very attached to these values, so they had to appear in the film.

Given his status in the industry and the life he now has, we were struck by how down-to-earth, humble he remains to be. What were your impressions of Elie during your time with him? Were you surprised by that at all?

The United States of Fashion Designer Elie Tahari
The United States of Fashion Designer Elie Tahari

I'm glad you're saying that because it's so true! I was not surprised because I had the honour to meet influential people, and I realized that the higher is a person (or artist), the friendlier and most accessible is a person. He is the kind of person that I try to look like every day. The way he treats people and is always available to everyone.

Elie's story seems to be very much about the American Dream come true, I guess as we understand it to be and I felt that was something that was a very strong theme throughout this film. Was that something you were conscious of portraying or was that something that just came about organically through Elie's story?

For sure, I knew it would be part of the film when I did the pre-production of the film. I always say that each person has their own equation; anything that happened to you makes who you are. I believe that if you remove America from Elie's story, you wouldn't have Elie Tahari, same without the refugee camp and the fact that he slept on Central Park's bench. Because America, especially New York, has something that makes you move mountains. Plus, all the people I interviewed in the movie (born U.S. citizens) have admired his American dream journey and story.

He has contributed so much to the American culture and fashion world, and he has paid millions of taxes, donated to many charities, and created thousands of jobs, which needs to be reminded and acknowledged that his sole devotion and dream made it all happen.

What do you think that people interested in pursuing a career in fashion will take away from your documentary?

I hope they will understand that there is a story behind each piece of clothes and that it must always be told.

What is the one overall message that people can expect to take home after watching The United States of Elie Tahari?

That I'm a genius! Lol. In all seriousness, I feel these days people tend to judge any person over one single thing. I hope they'll understand that a person has a whole journey that must be respected and experienced. I wanted that film to also give to the audience many gifts. There is a masterclass and instructive and entertaining moments. Not to forget pure moments of fashion, without any comments, solely designed to admire the craftsmanship of Elie Tahari.

What lessons do you think we as an audience can learn from Elie? And what lessons have you learned from him as a person and as a filmmaker?

Never forget where you come from. God only sends you challenges that He knows you can overcome and become stronger. Elie said so many impact phrases that I wanted to print on a poster so people could really digest and implement them. His generous and elegant personality transpire in his clothing.

I'm so honoured to have been able to do this film and so grateful for this opportunity. We are now writing his memoirs with so many more stories than you could ever think of! It also pays tribute to these people who left their native countries (often chased out) to start a new life in a new country without speaking a word of the language. I hope I'll become an Elie Tahari someday!



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