Ronit Elkabetz is well-known to Israeli cinema fans. In recent years, she played the mistress in Dover Kashashvilli's Late Marriage and starred as the lonely cafe owner in the development town in Eran Kolirin's The Band's Visit. Here, in Shiva, she grabs the limelight again, this time in the role of Vivian, one of the siblings in a large Moroccan family, the Ohayon family.
Set in the claustrophic atmosphere of a Jewish/Moroccan/Israeli family during the period of mourning, this is a film about family issues, problems of getting along, sharing and overcoming rivalries. The film opens at the gravesite of Maurice, one of the brothers. There are 6 brothers and 2 sisters, and many old grievances, gossip, whispers, financial collapse and intrigue. Much of the family tension revolves around the two sisters -- – Vivian (Ronit Elkabetz) and Simona (Hannah Azulai-Hasfari). Vivian desperately wants a divorce from her cruel and manipulative husband and Simona is still suffering from her change in status in the family since her husband died a few years ago.
Adding to the stress of all the financial and family issues, the story takes place on the background of the 1991 Gulf War. There are many comic elements in the film, such as when the sirens sound and confusion reigns as the entire family runs to the sealed room to put on gas masks. Another element – perhaps more ironic than comic – is the fact that one brother's wife is of German descent. We actually hear Moshe Ivgi (in the role of the brother whose business is in financial ruin) speaking in German to his wife who is demanding that the family return her uncle's German reparations monies that she has invested in the Moroccan family business!
In Hebrew, French, Moroccan, with a tiny bit of German.