The Women’s Balcony is a bravura performance by an ensemble of actors who radiate warmth and generate empathy from the audience. It was written by Shlomit Nehama and directed by Emil Ben-Shimon. The Women’s Balcony is an eccentric portrait of an already devout community suddenly under pressure from a super Orthodox rabbi to observe their faith in a more rigid way. While the mood is that of a gentle and affectionate comedy, the lm makes some extremely sharp points about fanaticism, sexism masked as holiness, and tolerance among the faithful (Sheila O’Malley, May 26, 2017).
The opening scene of community members, dressed in their nest, carrying refreshments, headed to shul, to a Bar Mitzvah, is the epitome of religion practiced together, loudly and with love. And then, it all falls apart. Literally: As the Bar Mitzvah boy is about to start reading from the Torah, the oor of the women’s balcony collapses. The accident leaves the elderly rebbetzin in a coma, her husband, the rabbi, in shock, the building in disrepair, and the community in a funk (Liel Leibovitz, Tablet, May 12, 2017). Enter Rav David, young, bearded, and wildly charismatic. The synagogue’s congregants welcome him with open arms. He insists on stricter observance of the mitzvoth, he blames the women for the collapse of the balcony; the men are dazzled and compliant. But, not the women. Matters come to a head when the money that the women collect to do the necessary repairs is allocated by Rav David to buying a new Torah scroll.
The film is very entertaining, and, is successful in communicating the dangers of excessive zeal and stringency. Rav David has met his match.
The women are here to make
sure that the tradition in which they so wholeheartedly believe continues to afford them the place and the space they need and deserve.
The Film is in Hebrew, with Hebrew subtitles. In PAL, which can be seen on any computer.
Reviewed by Dolores Luber
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