Film offers rare glimpse into Orthodox Jewish life

Sun Sep 2, 2012 10:54am EDT
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By Silvia Aloisi

VENICE (Reuters) - Israeli director Rama Burshtein brings her own ultra-Orthodox Jewish community to the big screen in "Fill the Void", a film about a young bride torn between love and familial obligations premiering at the Venice festival.

The film centers on Shira, an 18-year-old Hasidic girl who is thrilled about her forthcoming arranged marriage with a young man whom she has only briefly seen in a supermarket.

Tragedy strikes when Shira's older sister Esther dies giving birth, leaving the family crushed by grief.

Esther's husband Yochai is quickly pressed to remarry a widow in Belgium, but the girls' mother is desperate to keep her only grandchild in the country - and soon Shira is asked to step into her sister's shoes.

The film, set in the secluded Hasidic community living in secular Tel Aviv, offers a rare glimpse into the Orthodox way of life, its rigid customs and traditions, but also deals with the wider themes of relationships and family pressures.

"People don't know much about this world, so it's not a question of celebration or criticism, it's a window into this world," said New York-born Burshtein, who grew up in a secular family but became ultra-Orthodox shortly after graduating.

"I love this world, I come from it, I chose it, I was not born in it. But I think we hear many voices (in the film), I think it's open," she told reporters.

Burshtein has spent more than a decade teaching and making cinema for the Orthodox Jewish community, some of them for women only as Hasidic men are barred from viewing women on the big screen.   Continued...

Actors Hadas Yaron (L), Yiftach Klein (2nd L) and Irit Sheleg (R) pose with director Rama Burshtein during a photocall for the movie "Lemale Et Ha' Chalal (Fill The Void)" at the 69th Venice Film Festival September 2, 2012. REUTERS/Tony Gentile