Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

July 10, 2013

CALLERI: “Fill The Void” offers look at a woman living in a closed society

The serenity of a large Tel Aviv apartment is the focus of “Fill The Void,” a superb new movie about the belief in family, marriage and religion as seen by a young woman whose every decision in life has been made for her. The film tell us a number of extraordinary things about the society it examines.
 
In “Fill The Void, first-time director Rama Burshtein, tells a simple but beautiful story about Shira, a shy young woman living in an ultra-Orthodox community in Israel’s largest city. She is faced with a choice we’ve seen in hundreds of romantic comedies from Hollywood. Which man will she agree to marry? This is different from what man would she like to marry.
 
For Shira, the decision is fraught with myriad complexities. She must make a choice based on a number of conditions, including the opinions of members of her family — especially her mother’s, the tenets of her religion, and her personal feelings, which have less weight than they should have. Hadas Yaron as Shira, and Irit Sheleg as her mother Rivka, are both wonderful to watch and experience.
 
Burshtein is the first ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman in Israel to direct and write a feature-length film for a general audience. This is especially momentous because her insular religious community forbids watching secular movies and television. “Fill the Void” is just one of a handful of films to focus on an Orthodox religious community from within. It received seven Ophir Awards, which are Israel’s equivalent of the Academy Awards, winning for best feature film, director (Burshtein), screenplay (Burshtein), actress (Yaron), supporting actress (Sheleg), cinematography (Asaf Sudri) and make-up (Eti Ben Nun). It has also been honored at many film festivals.
 
In the movie, Shira is only 18, a sweet and unassuming, albeit, lovelorn bride-to-be. She has to choose a husband, and the suitable choices are slim, although one young man is chosen. After her sister Esther dies while giving birth. Shira faces pressure from her distraught mother to marry her widowed and broken-hearted brother-in-law Yochay (a very good Yiftach Klein), so he won’t move to Belgium with his newborn to marry someone else. Shira’s mother wants to keep her grandson nearby. Other family members offer their opinion. As would be expected, a scholarly rabbi is consulted. This is a truly difficult choice for Shira, who it seems has never had to fend for herself or make important decisions.

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