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Israeli film shown at Cannes, but fails to take home any prizes

JERUSALEM, May 23 (JTA) — A love story set in a fervently Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem was among the films shown at the 52nd Cannes Festival this week. The movie, directed by Amos Gitai, was the first Israeli film in 25 years to be screened as part of the main competition at the prestigious festival in the French resort town. “Kadosh,” which means “holy,” portrays the experience of two sisters trying to come to terms with fervently Orthodox life in Mea Shearim. One sister, Rivka, has been married to Meir for 10 years. The two love each other but do not have any children. The other sister, Malka, is in love with Ya’akov, who has chosen to leave the fervently Orthodox community. “Kadosh” failed to pick up any awards from the festival’s jury, which gave the top award, the Golden Palm, to a dark-horse Belgian film, “Rosetta,” which depicts an 18-year-old girl’s struggle to make her way in the world. “Kadosh” opens in Israel on June 10 against the backdrop of secular-religious tensions that are now a familiar feature of Israeli life. “From the beginning, I was aware of the difficulties of making a film about ultra-Orthodox society. I came to this film, like all my others, out of great curiosity and a desire to understand the phenomenon the film deals with. The preparation and making of the film are a form of research, and with ‘Kadosh’ I was trying to understand without erasing my personality or giving up my secular beliefs,” Gitai recently told the Israeli daily Ha’aretz. “My goal was to discuss the contradictions that characterize ultra-Orthodox society and determine the fate of its members without making them exotic or caricatures,” he said. Gitai said that while he spent time in Mea Shearim in preparation for the film, the scenes, which took place indoors, were filmed on a Tel Aviv set, partly out of respect for the residents of the Jerusalem neighborhood. Gitai said it was important to him that the film accurately portray fervently Orthodox life. “It was really important to me that the film be as accurate as possible in its portrayal of religious ritual, such as the wedding, immersion in the ritual bath — or even the way the married couple has sexual relations,” he said. Gitai, who lives in Paris, was born in Haifa in 1950. “Kadosh” is the third part of a film trilogy by Gitai that is set in Israel’s three largest cities. “Zichron Dvarim” takes place in Tel Aviv, and “Yom Yom” is set in Haifa. Gitai, who has worked in film for 20 years, has also shot documentaries.