"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.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fill the Void

This week, Fill the Void, directed by Rama Burshtein, opened in Israel.  The film was screened in the competition at the Venice Film Festival, 2012, just recently, where the lead actress, Hadas Yaron, won an award for best actress.

The first scene sets the context and the theme -- the audience watches as 18-year-old Shira and her mother are eyeing Shira's intended as he nervously stands by the dairy counter in a supermarket.  The context  is an ultra-orthodox Hassidic community and the theme is arranged marriages.   

If we truly value diversity and pluralism, then it is surprising that we haven't seen more films that provide us with greater understanding and empathy for the ultra-orthodox  community, especially ones with so much charm!  Although there have been many films in recent years that offer a window into this world -- Kadosh (Amos Gitai), Ushpizin (Gidi Dar),  Secrets (Avi Nesher), Eyes Wide Open (Haim Tabakman), God's Neighbors (Meni Yaesh) -- all of them have been critical or poked fun at the world that they portray.  Different from the others, Fill the Void provides an intimate, loving  and sensitive look at the community.  

Although not didactic in any way, the filmmaker, Rama Burshtein, herself an ultra-orthodox woman, has  included many scenes that provide the viewer with an introduction to this community, its religious beliefs and practices, including ritual washing of the hands, giving tzedakah (charity) at Purim, consoling the bereaved, and wedding preparations -- and offer a glimpse at their problems, often confusing and sometimes trying.  This is a unique and tight-knit community in which people go to ask their rabbi for advice and girls dream only of marrying their bashert (promised match). 

Not a complex film -- although the story does have some twists and turns -- this is a romantic drama  --charming, well-made, somewhat artistic  (lots of traditional music, constant use of close-up) and highly recommended!  Also, it offers a welcome relief from the usual screen offerings which include so much  vulgarity and violence!  

Fill the Void is available from Norma Productions.

The filmmaker is quoted talking about the haredi world in a Reuters report that appeared in Ha'aretz on Sept. 3, 2012 --
"People don't know much about this world, so it's not a question of celebration or criticism -- it's a window into this world," said New York-born Burshtein, who grew up in a secular family but became ultra-Orthodox.  "I Love this world, I come from it, I chose it, I was not born in it  But I think we hear many voices (in the film), I think it's open," she added.

No comments: