April 7, 2017 Fill The Void (2012, Israel, directed by Rama Burshtein, 90 min.)
Filmed in Tel Aviv’s ultra Orthodox Hasidic (Haredi) community ruled by religious law, tradition and the rabbi’s word, we enter the household of Aharon (Chayim Sharir) and Rivka (Irit Sheleg) Mendelman and their daughters Esther (Renana Raz) and Shira (Hadas Yaron).
Esther, married to Yochay (Yiftach Klein) dies in childbirth; in addition to grieving, the family immediately starts thinking of solutions to the unanticipated dilemma of the baby Mordechai in need of a mother and the widower in need of a wife. When a widow in Belgium appears eager to take on this role, Rivka panics at the thought of losing her first grandchild and begins to urge Shira to marry her brother-in-law. While it is the custom to have their spouses chosen for them, women do have the right to refuse. Shira agonizes over her duty and the close family ties that are critical in her community – but ultimately goes to tell her rabbi that she is ready to marry Yochay.
Director Burshtein did not grow up observant, but later became religious and gained the full trust of the Orthodox community. The actors are non-Orthodox Israelis. The film gives us a rare opportunity to observe a Haredi community in amazing detail while also presenting a tribute to the struggles of any family.
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The International Film Series is sponsored by the United Nations Association of Davis and International House Davis.