A Woman's Place

<em>The Women</em>’<em>s Balcony</em>
The Womens Balcony

This is a very charming and quite a "feel good" film. It is about many things: a close-knit, earthy, easy-going, but pious Sephardic community in Jerusalem; delicious Sephardic foods that look so tasty the viewer wants to reach over and take something. The film is about loving wive and loving husbands--and about the collapse of the women's balcony in their shul which destroys their Torah, plunges the Rabbi's wife into a coma, and the Rabbi into madness.

Despite this catastrophe, the film is a comedy. And, this is not all that the film is about.

The film presents a clash between an Ashkenazi rabbi (Rabbi David)--a young, good-looking, but rather harsh zealot--and a group of vibrant, traditional, kind-hearted and perhaps overly idealized Sephardic women whose balcony is now gone. In the absence of their regular Rabbi Menashe, Rabbi David supervises the repairs; he constructs a small and crowded cage for the effervescent women, rather than their old, open, and spacious balcony.

With the money that the women have themselves raised for a new balcony, Rabbi David instead commissions a new Torah. Clearly, both are needed. He praises the women as the Torah--and thus, preaches that women do not need the Torah or Torah study. But he wants them to rebel against the traditions of their mothers and dress more modestly, and follow new religious rules at home.

Rabbi David has picked the wrong group of women to tyrannize. These women are quite happy with their religious and communal lives and do not wish to change them.

Rabbi David seems to exert an almost hypnotic control over their hapless husbands who are mourning their rabbi (whose hand they kiss when they see him) but who has temporarily lost his mind.

The battle is on. The women banish their husbands; they protest and demonstrate outside Rabbi David's yeshiva. Without giving away the ending, let me say that the Sephardic women--and young love--win this battle.

The acting is superb (Abraham Celektar, Igal Naor, Evelin Hagoel, Aviv Alush, Assaf Ben Shimon), as is the music (Ahuva Ozeri), direction (Emil Ben Shimon), and cinematography. Menemsha Films distributes this film in the United States.

This is good, light entertainment for very troubled times.

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