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Moving Orthodox-Jewish family drama
on 7 November 2013
"Fill the Void" (2012 release from Israel; 90 min.) brings a very intimate look into the world of Israel's ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community. As the film opens, we get to know Shira, an 18 year old woman who is keeping her eyes open about her marriage options (she secretly has her eyes on a young man whom she meets from afar in the dairy section of the grocery store). We also get to know Shira's older sister Esther, who is nine months pregnant with her first-born and due any minute. Then disaster strikes and Esther dies in labor, leaving a big void to fill in the lives of her loved ones: her sister Shira, her mother, and of course her husband Yochay, not to mention the new-born baby. It's not long thereafter that Yochay is contemplating offers for a new marriage, including one from Belgium, as well as one from Frieda, a friend of Shira's and Esther's, and also Shira herself at the insistence of Shira's and Esther's mother. At this point we are only about 30 minutes into the movie. What will Yochay decide to do? To tell you more would ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: first and foremost, this film is a labor of love from writer-director Rama Burshtein, who seemingly has poured her heart and soul into bringing this film to life, and with great results. Second, we get a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community as never before. At no time do the characters feel forced or over the top, but instead they feel so authentic that at several times during the movie I was wondering if these were actors, or real-life ultra-Orthodox people. Third, kudos to Hadas Yaron in the role of Shira and also Yiftach Klein in the role of Yochay, as they bring fantastic performances, in particular Yaron as the young/vulnerable/confused Shira is just superb. This film was Israel's entry for Best Foreign Movie in this year's Oscar nominations, and it's easy to see why.
Bottom line: "Fill the Void" is a very moving family drama that just happens to be set in the ultra-Orthodox community of Tel Aviv. I will admit I was moved to tears on several occasions while watching this. This film opened in July at my local art-house theatre here in Cincinnati and I am glad to tell you that the screening I saw this at was quite well attended. Meanwhile, "Fill the Void" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!