September 15, 2016 5:56 AM EDT

You have a very pronounced Queens accent in the movie.

Yeah! Deborah’s accent is Jewish Queens. She has a Jewishness in the way she talks. There’s a kind of call-and-response–like a Talmudic thing. My son’s grandparents are from Brooklyn and they’re Jewish, and I had their wonderful accents in my mind and had to get them out.

Were you raised Jewish?

Not religious, but culturally. My dad was born in Budapest and my mom in Vienna. She left Austria two weeks before the war broke out. It was talked about a lot in my family because both my parents fled the Nazis. But this film isn’t really about the Holocaust. It’s about the insanity of trying to put fact on trial. I think screenwriter David Hare was inspired by Donald Trump–this idea that you can have an opinion one day and an opinion the next day and speak as if it’s a fact.

What was filming at Auschwitz like?

What struck me was the industrialized level of organization. It wasn’t killing in rage, which is still terrible, but that’s human. There was something disconnected from humanity. You stop to think, How does a human get to a place where that was O.K.? A lot of people say, “It happened ages ago–let’s get over it.” Historically, it’s a minute ago. My parents were children.

You’ve begun producing films. Does that have anything to do with a lack of good roles for women?

There should be more. It’s strange, talking about women as if we’re some tiny minority group that needs to be represented in cinema. It’s like saying we need to find some good roles for sheepdogs. Films where women are front and center, that tell their stories–there probably aren’t enough.


This appears in the September 26, 2016 issue of TIME.

Write to Eliza Berman at

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