Screening stories about Israel

Screening stories about Israel

On a dark Tel Aviv terrace, a young charedi Orthodox man and a younger charedi woman discuss love and heartbreak. There is tension and animosity, hurt feelings and broken promises. Then, in an emotional crescendo, the man steps toward the woman, stopping inches from her face. His breathing is heavy, their noses nearly touching.

This unusual and powerful scene is one of the climaxes of “Fill the Void,” the award-winning movie debut from Israel’s Rama Burshtein. While the film, Israel’s entry into the 2012 Oscars’ foreign language category, tackles death, attraction, love and sex inside a community not known for openly addressing emotion, Burshtein, who is charedi herself, insists she’s not a rabble-rouser or a rule-breaker looking to ruffle feathers inside the cloistered world of the charedim.

“Everyone else is trying to interpret what is going on” in the charedi world, the 45-year-old director told JTA in a recent interview after “Fill the Void” played to critical acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival.

“I felt it was time to tell a story from within, and say something that comes from really living the life,” Burshtein said. “That’s what I felt was important: to just tell a story that has no connection with the regular subjects that you deal with when you talk about the Orthodox world.”

“Fill the Void” may be the first film about charedi life directed by an insider for a secular audience. Aesthetically daring, softly lit, intimate and flecked with light humor, the film recently earned seven Ophir Awards – known as the Israeli Oscars – including best film and best director.

Burshtein, a native New Yorker who grew up in Tel Aviv, became religious at 25, shortly after graduating from Jerusalem’s Sam Spiegel Film and Television School. While no shortage of films has depicted the rigid confines of charedi Orthodox life, most, such as Gidi Dar’s “Ushpizin” and Amos Gitai’s somber “Kadosh,” have been from a secular perspective, focusing on charedi Jews struggling with their identity or looking for escape.

Read the full interview, originally published on October 4, 2012, at

JTA Wire Service

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