Fill the Void

Hadas Yaron in "Fill the Void"

Hadas Yaron in “Fill the Void”

From Israel, the new film “Fill the Void” opens at Landmark Theatres Sunshine Cinema (143 East Houston Street) and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas (Broadway between 62nd and 63rd Streets) on Friday, May 24.   I attended a press screening of “Fill the Void,” as part of the New York Film Festival, last October.  The preview included a post screening Skype conversation with the film’s director, Rama Burshtein, from her home (her kitchen actually) in Israel.   “Fill the Void” shows the emergence of an interesting new filmmaking talent, showing the point of view of an orthodox Jewish woman filmmaker.

“Fill the Void” is a beautifully made and engrossing story about life in a Hassidic community in Tel Aviv.   To tell more than a just a little of the story of Burshtein’s delicate, nuanced film would be to spoil it.

From a sociological point of view “Fill the Void” deals with the social institutions of family and religion, with the emphasis on family.  In a social institution members must yield self-interest in favor of the needs of the group, in this case a family.   In return the social institution must provide a sense of purpose.

“Fill the Void” is the story of 18-year-old Shira Mendelman (Hadas Yaron) who wrestles with a decision which, on the one hand, will maintain the status quo of her family, but, on the other hand, may not be in her own best interest.  “Fill the Void” is a quiet yet searing look at the joys and sorrows inherent in Hasidic culture.  Burshtein explained that, “The film is about the mixture of sadness and happiness and joy and passion and loss.”

During the Skype conversation questions arose about Burshtein’s role as a woman director making a film in a Hasidic community in Tel Aviv.   Burshtein said that, “In the orthodox world only women do film, which is amazing.   It is a very fast growing industry.”  Burshtein explained that she was not always orthodox.  In her secular life Burshtein attended the Sam Spiegel Film Institute, in Jerusalem, where she learned to become a filmmaker.  Burshtein said she has been orthodox for the past 20 years. As for what she was allowed to photograph and not photograph Burshtein explained, “Everything that was shot was allowed to be shot.  I’m totally orthodox so, for me, everything I’m not allowed to do I don’t want to do.  I work within that area and I love it.  For me these are my wings.  These are not my brakes.”  Burshtein said that she likes American films and listed directors Ang Lee and David Lynch among her inspirations.

As for how “Fill the Void” will be received by secular Jews and non-Jews, Burshtein said that she had experienced positive reactions to the film from its having been shown at the Venice and Toronto film festivals.  “For me it’s surprising,” Burshtein explained.  “I guess there’s something very universal about it.  Everyone looks at it from their own world.  For me it’s a big success doing that.  I didn’t think it would happen, but it did and I’m very glad.”

Fill the Void, Director Rama Burshtein, 2012, Sony Pictures Classics,

90 minutes, rated PG

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on May 21, 2013, in New and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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