"World Cinema: Israel"

My book, "World Cinema: Israel" (originally published in 1996) is available from Amazon on "Kindle", with an in-depth chapter comparing and analyzing internationally acclaimed Israeli films up to 2010.

Want to see some of the best films of recent years? Just scroll down to "best films" to find listings of my recommendations.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

"And Thou Shalt Love" -- a fresh look at homosexuality within the Orthodox Community

And Thou Shalt Love ואהבת , directed and scripted by Chaim Elbaum, based on his own personal story, is about being gay and being a yeshivah bocher – and about making the difficult decision to stay or not to stay within the Orthodox framework. Winner of the coveted Wolgin prize for best drama at the Jerusalem Film Festival, 2008.

Ohad is a student in a hesder yeshiva, where students can combine their learning with their army service. Terribly lonely and anxious as a result of being gay in this framework, he is trying desperately to "cure" himself via a "hotline" that helps Orthodox young men in this situation. Almost 30 days have past and Ohad is ready to accept a shiduch, when his roommate and hevrutah, Nir, returns on army leave. Ohad can't help himself and decides to let Nir know how he feels. When Nir tells him that this is an abomination because it is explicitly forbidden in the Torah, Ohad is faced with some difficult decisions. Can he stay in the yeshiva? Can he remain within the orthodox framework? What is his relationship to God? To our surprise, Ohad decides, that as a "cohen", he can continue to bless his fellow students with the priestly benediction.

The poignant and strong conclusion reminds us of another Israeli drama about homosexuality, Yossi and Jagger (directed by Eytan Fox), in which there is also a difficult ending. In this conclusion, the character is unable to come to terms with the possibility of coming out of the closet while still remaining within his specific framework -- in this case, the military. Filmmaker Eytan Fox's films portray two extremes – gay love affairs which remain stuffed in the closet due to societal pressures, on the one hand (as in Yossi and Jagger, 2002) and gay couples who are committed to each other openly and proudly (as in his musical Gotta Have Heart, 1997).

And Thou Shalt Love is available from the Ma'ale School of TV, Film and the Arts in Jerusalem from Tamar: tamarp@maale.co.il. Check out their website at http://www.maale.co.il/


dss said...

This movie sounds really interesting. I saw Yossi and Jagger and loved it. Can you get this movie off of netflix?

Amy Kronish said...

"And Thou Shalt Love" is still too new! At this stage, it can only be rented or purchased from the Ma'aleh Film School in Jerusalem. This always happens with new and award-winning films. Later on, they become easier to obtain.