Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Review: Religion Tests Gender Politics in ‘The Women’s Balcony’ – New York Times


Photo

From left, Orna Banai, Yafit Asulin, Evelin Hagoel, Sharona Elimelech and Einat Sarouf in a scene from “The Women’s Balcony.”

Credit
Itiel Zion/Menemsha Films

“Don’t you want us there?” an Israeli woman asks her husband in “The Women’s Balcony,” a charming exercise in gender politics as experienced via religion. The wife, Ettie (Evelin Hagoel), has just learned that their newly rebuilt Orthodox Jewish synagogue no longer has a separate section for women — which essentially means they have been barred from the gender-segregated services. The slight is a punch in the gut, but it also starts a revolution.

Video

Trailer: ‘The Women’s Balcony’

A preview of the film.


By MENEMSHA FILMS on Publish Date May 25, 2017.


Image courtesy of Internet Video Archive.

Watch in Times Video »

The story begins when the women’s balcony at the synagogue collapses during the bar mitzvah celebration for Ettie’s grandson. The accident leaves the rabbi’s wife in a coma and the rabbi in a state of shock, which puts the future of the congregation in limbo; rabbis have to supervise repairs. So when the charismatic young Rabbi David comes to their rescue, he’s seen as “an angel from heaven.” Rabbi David may be a good man, but he’s not exactly progressive. His more conservative views and strict reading of scripture soon run afoul of the women of this more moderate congregation, especially Ettie. The growing rift threatens to tear apart a few marriages, but there’s never really any doubt about the couples’ eventual reunion, let alone which side will prevail.

Still, Emil Ben-Shimon’s smart direction (tight shots of narrow streets and even narrower dwellings really convey a sense of an insular community) and Shlomit Nehama’s lighthearted and topical script ensure the proceedings not only hit all the right notes, but also entertain while being respectful of religious traditions. The entire cast is solid, but the women, especially Ms. Hagoel, bring depth to their comedic and dramatic turns. Ettie’s wisdom is never more spot on than when she tells her grandson, “God gave us minds of our own.” Indeed.

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