Acting? Genius.

San Franciscans were treated to a special Dolores Park, sukkah-side screening of Ushpizin this past Sunday at Spook’ot, and those of you in New York and LA can take the opportunity to check out this Israeli film in local theaters. I can’t recommend it enough…as an awfully sweet film with a fascinating look at Breslover Jews in Jerusalem, and a funny, respectful glimpse at tensions in modern-day Israel between secular and religious Jews. The story behind the film is as fascinating as the screenplay, as today’s New York Times reports:

[W]hen Shuli Rand, one of Gidi Dar’s longtime collaborators, had a religious awakening, the director saw an opportunity to bridge a gap. And while Mr. Rand had given up acting, it turned out that he had an idea for a screenplay, about a couple who end up with unwanted guests for the Sukkot holiday.
There was a problem finding an actress. Hasidim are not permitted to look directly at women who are not their wives, and certainly not allowed to engage them with their eyes. Who would play the wife? Mr. Dar turned to Mr. Rand’s wife, Michal Bat Sheva Rand, also a newcomer to Hasidism. She had no acting experience.
“She freaked out, she refused,” Mr. Dar recalled. “But later I told her, ‘If you don’t do it, Shuli can’t do it.'” So she agreed.
The supporting characters in the Hasidic community were all former actors who had become religious. Only the actors who played the two career criminals, Shaul Mizrahi and Ilan Ganani, were professionals.
The film has been a hit in Israel, where it won Mr. Rand the country’s top acting award, and has so far garnered strong reviews in this country.
Mr. Rand initially worried that it might be too religious, too uncritical. But Mr. Dar disagreed; he wanted to go deep, and not to judge. “I said, ‘No. We can go as far as we want,'” Mr. Dar recalled. “‘Your perspective is the perspective of a believer. You believe in the world of God, in prayers being answered by miracles. The world I’m looking at follows the mind of a believer.'”

Full story here.
Film screening times and theaters here.

4 thoughts on “Acting? Genius.

  1. hey say hi next time! i was in the sukkah most of the night, which incidentally was brought to you by the mission minyan, check us out sometime. we all loved the event too, i think it was one of the better frisco jewish things in ages.

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