Avi Nesher is one of Israel’s greatest and most prolific filmmakers. In his early years, he was well-known for Sing Your Heart Out (HaLahaka). After a long period working in Hollywood, he returned to Israel where he has made some of the more important films of the last 25 years: Turn Left at the End of the World, Secrets, Wonders, and Past Life.
According to the publicity for his latest film, The Other Story, it’s about a young woman who is becoming haredi (ultra-orthodox) and her parents want to prevent her from marrying, because, let’s face it, marrying someone from the haredi world would probably be an irreversible commitment for her. But the film is not only about that. It’s about so much more.
It is a gripping complex narrative film that follows two family stories. Both stories are about relations between parents and children, and explore whether any of us really can know what’s best for our children.
Anat and Shahar were a couple when they were secular, even hedonistic, youngsters. Today, they have both become ultra-orthodox and are engaged to be married. Shahar is the lead singer in a band and is studying in a Jerusalem yeshivah and Anat is in an ultra-orthodox seminary for girls. In a desperate attempt to block the upcoming wedding, Anat’s mother sends for her estranged husband who has been living in the USA. She wants his help in stopping the wedding at any cost.
In the second story, Anat’s grandfather and father are both therapists and are counseling a couple who are fighting over what is best for their young son. Both parents seem to be somewhat off balance – the father is ready to stoop to any means to keep control over his son and the mother participates in a so-called “cult” which is actually an ultra-feminist group where the women are worshipping a Canaanite goddess.
The parallel between ultra-orthodoxy and ultra-feminism, both as forms of extremism, is quite striking. Who is to say which zealotry is preferable – extreme secularism or ultra-orthodoxy?
I loved The Other Story. It is filled with sharp dialogue, dramatic tension, multiple motivations, and in-depth characterizations.