Interview with Ike Barinholtz

Writer & Director of “The Oath”

Dallas, Texas, September 18, 2018


Ron Salfen:  That Thanksgiving dinner conversation is really combative.

Ike Barinholtz:  Yeah, there used to be safe areas, you know, talk about the Cowboys, let's talk about a movie or something, and now everybody's so firmy entrenched.  Everyone's an expert, reading their magazines and their articles, and nobody gives in.  In the movie, Kai (Tiffany Haddish) is the only grounded person, seemingly, but she's under this pressure cooker from everyone else, especially her husband, and then she, too, explodes.

RS:  As you were writing your character, were you willing to shoot the gun you were pointing?

IB:  Up until that last moment.  Chris is being pushed so far, first in his own head, then these guys coming into his own house, that at the end I believe he is about to make an irrevocable decision.

RS:  Where did you come up with those government agents?

IB:  I knew I needed those antagonists.  I had this concept of an offshoot of a government agency.  Three years ago, if you'd asked me what “I.C.E.” was, I'd have said, “Yeah, the stuff in water.”  Then, as we started hearing these stories, and I.C.E. becomes this sort of paramilitary squad, the script is then reflecting the reality in which we live.  I have a friend who works in Homeland Security, and the reality is that many of those agents come from law enforcement, or are ex-military.  But then there are those who are just civil servants.  In my mind, Peter, the John Cho character, worked for the IRS, possibly, a long time ago.  Then he finds himself in this situation that he doesn't want to be in, and doesn't like, and finds himself paired up with a true psychopath.  And he's thinking, “Wow, a couple of years ago I was pushing pencils, and now there's this confrontation, and this gun....” I knew that I wanted that kind of combination with those two guys....You know, I think about the 60's, when we had all those protests, and the big movie companies were producing stuff like “Paint Your Wagon”....

RS: ...“Barefoot in the Park”...

IB:  Right, “Barefoot in the Park,” and it was the younger filmmakers who were telling the truth of the social situation:  The Bob Altmans, the Hal Ashbys, and then the studios responded.  I think the way the world's changing, we're going to start seeing films that reflect the way we're really living.

RS:  Do you think the family in the film ever really repaired itself?

IB:  I'm an optimist.  I'm an optimist about this country, even though I tweet a lot of angry stuff.  There was talk early on about making the ending a lot darker, like some of the family not even surviving.  But I resisted that.  Some of them are going to have scars, some of them actual physical scars, but I think they will come out better on the other end.  We shot an ending where the family kind of reconciles at the end, but at the end of the day, it was too long, and we didn't need that, but still, at the end, I think the family was stronger.  And I feel like we'll be a stronger country when this is all done, I really do.  So the family is a bit of a metaphor for the country.  If we can get out of this without letting the external forces tear us apart, we'll be stronger.  We'll be OK.  And in a few years, we're going to look back and say, “Remember all that?!”  (laughs)  …..The best weapons we Jews have is our humor.  We can make each other laugh.  And that's a cornerstone in my mind.  That, and the food—--which is why we ate pie at the end!  So I want people to laugh, feel the tension a little, laugh some more, and then eat!



Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association