7:30 PM, 23rd April, 2014
Writer-director Rama Burshtein has had the kind of life that seems more plausible in reverse. Born in New York, she emigrated with her family to Tel Aviv, where – after a secular education – she joined the Haredim (think ultra-Orthodox Judaism) at the age of 25. This is a film set in one of the terrifyingly extreme fundamentalist communities of Tel Aviv, told by someone who joined such a community voluntarily, and is in fact still there. It’s a view from the inside.
Bear that in mind when I tell you what it’s about. Shira (Yaron) is an 18-year-old woman looking forward to the arranged match in store for her, when her sister dies in childbirth. Shira’s wedding is cancelled; and what’s more, her parents, and the community, soon decide that the right thing to do is for Shira to take her sister’s place and marry her brother-in-law (Klein). Neither party is thrilled about the match, but options appear to be limited.
Burshtein is certainly on Shira’s side, but she also loves the society she’s showing us, and wants us to love it, too. Maybe this is what makes Shira’s situation more real than it would in the hands of a more secular (that is to say, saner) director. We are, as I said, taken inside the community; and the bars of a prison look much more solid from the inside.