Students of film have created some remarkable and innovative dramatic films over the years. They are able to use the medium of film to explore forms of expression which far exceed what commercial filmmakers often permit themselves.Although the students at the religious film school in Jerusalem – the Ma'aleh School of Film and TV – are being trained to bring issues of the religious community to the screen, they are no different from other film school students in their flair for creativity and talent. A number of short dramas have been produced as graduate films by the students at Ma'aleh which have caught my attention.
I have put together here a group of 5 films on contemporary issues dealing with women and the family. All of these films are slice-of-life shorts, sensitive dramas about real people and real issues within the religious community. These short dramas can be rented or purchased from the Ma'aleh Film School.
Two films about the pressures of getting pregnant --
Expecting, directed by Meital Glazer,פרי בטן is about a young couple who can't get pregnant. The wife has a false pregnancy and they have to face the disappointment together.
New Year's Resolution, directed by Ayala Zamir,הרת עולם is about artificial insemination for a single woman in the haredi community. She is single, 38-years-old, and very badly wants to have a child. Her decision to try artificial insemination creates terrible tension with her mother who says that this is not the way to have a child.
Two Films about Divorce --
Separation, directed by Tsofnat David, הכל בסדר is about family disintegration from the point of view of a young girl. When her parents are fighting and threatening to separate, she makes up a story that her younger brother is missing, in order to bring the parents together.
Willingly, directed by Pazit Lichtman, הרי את is about a young couple who go to the rabbinate to obtain a divorce, even though they are not really sure of this decision.
Cohen's Wife, directed by Nava Heifetz-Nussan, אשת כוהן is an artistic look at how Judaism deals with the rape of the wife of a "cohen"(descendant of the priestly class). With flexibility and compassion -- is the answer given in this film. The film tells the short story of an ultra-orthodox woman who has been raped by an intruder and no one can deal with her trauma.
Her husband, a "cohen", is not permitted by Jewish law to be married to a woman who has been taken by another man. Therefore, the woman's husband is unable to comfort his wife. Instead, he is occupied with his efforts in having the rabbinic court permit him to stay with her. Even though the rabbinic court finds a creative solution to the problem of this young couple thereby permitting them to remain together, it in fact stifles or even denies the woman's traumatic experience. As a result, the woman looks at her husband at the end with sadness, feeling that he should have stood up and declared that he wouldn’t turn her away, especially in her time of need. We understand that she has to forgive him for his wavering – instead of the old clichés of him having to forgive her for being impure or for being guilty of being raped. He begs for forgiveness for his silence.