The team at Sony PIctures Classics has been very busy since Toronto and they added another women directed film Fill the Void written and directed by Rama Burshtein to their list of acquisitions. The film will be Israel's submission to the Academy Award for best foreign film having won seven awards including best director, best picture and best screenplay at Israel's Ophirs (their version of the Academy Awards.)
The film will play at the NY Film Festival next week after coming off runs at Toronto and in Venice where lead actress Hadas Yaron won bst actress.
It was one of the films I was most interested in seeing in Toronto because it was said to be the first film directed by an Orthodox woman in Israel. The film has been said to be a kind of Jane Austen in the Hasidic community and having seen it, it is a pretty good description.
It is the story of Shira a very devout Hasidic girl who is arriving at the point of her life where whe will be set up to be married. This is a community where people are matched together by a matchmaker have a couple of meetings (if they are lucky) and decide if they are compatible. This is not about love. This is about having babies. And marrying and having babies is what life is about for an 18 year old girl in this community.
As you expect, this bothers me, greatly. I believe that the restrictions placed on girls in this community is scary and unacceptable and outdated. Clearly, there are many people who still believe that this is a great way of life. Writer/director Rama Burshtein has chosen the life having emigrated to Israel from New York where she was born.
In some ways I wish that I could dismiss the film. But I can't. It is a beautiful film so well done and so well acted. I saw the film in Toronto with a non-jewish woman who knows nothing about that world. We looked at each other in the middle of the film both stunned at how beautiful it was.
But the movie does have political problems. It is all about getting married and one character, a still young woman who is "past her prime" in the marriage department is looked at as the saddest woman around. She feels that there is something wrong with her and what happens to her, to me, is heartbreaking.
Interestingly, the film will probably play more at non women centric film festivals and now that it is getting a substantive release it will probably be off the circuit. Women's film festivals tend to have more of a feminist slant and this film though directed by a woman does not have a feminist message.
But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be seen, discussed and fought about.
Sony Pictures Classics Picks Up Another Middle Eastern Film and Foreign Oscar Submission (Thompson on Hollywood)