SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2013
By Don Simpson | January 21, 2013
Director: Rama Burshtein
Writer: Rama Burshtein
Starring: Hadas Yaron, Irit Sheleg, Yiftach Klein, Renana Raz, Yael Tal, Ido Samuel, Hila Feldman, Razia Israeli, Chayim Sharir
Now that Shira (Hadas Yaron) is 18-years old, her family is ready to marry her off. When tragedy steps in to fatefully postpone her engagement, Shira ends up taking care of her newborn nephew, Mordechai, instead. Shira’s unexpectedly widowed brother-in-law Yochay (Yiftach Klein) has an offer to marry a young woman in Belgium, so he threatens to take Mordechai along with him. Shira’s mother (Irit Sheleg) is adamantly opposed to permitting her son-in-law to whisk Mordechai off to Belgium. She can think of only one way to stop him, someone must fill the titular void left by her deceased older daughter (Renana Raz). Unfortunately for Shira, that plan involves an arranged marriage between her and Yochay.
During the course of writer-director Rama Burshtein’s Fill the Void we witness several arranged marriages. The participants seem quite happy, despite the fact that the agreements are more about social conformity and business transactions rather than romance. Shira is a bit different because she wants some resemblance of romance and excitement with whomever she weds. Thanks to the purely observational approach of the film, the audience is left to decide on their own about the purpose(s) of marriage, the importance of appeasing one’s family and abiding by social rules.
Certain scenes play a bit too melodramatic, and the story a bit too contrived and predictable; regardless, Fill the Void carries a strong message which is accented by high production values and commendable performances. It is a rare glimpse inside Haredi culture by way of a secular Jew-turned-Haredi director, starring a primarily secular cast.