Israeli film ‘Fill the Void’ takes prize at Palm Springs festival


LOS ANGELES (JTA) — The Israeli movie “Fill the Void” was named the best foreign language film at the Palm Springs International Film Festival in Southern California.

The FIRESCI, or International Federation of Film Critics Prize, for the Israeli entry was announced Sunday at the conclusion of the 11-day festival and assuaged some of the disappointment at the movie’s failure to make the shortlist of the Academy Awards. The film beat out entries from 41countries for the Palm Springs prize. 

Though not as prestigious as the Oscars or as well known as the Cannes or Venice film festivals, the Palm Springs event is considered the primary U.S. venue for the screening of foreign movies. This year, the festival screened 182 films, including 42 of the 71 foreign language movies submitted in the Oscars competition.

“Fill the Void,” written and directed by Rama Burshtein, examines profound issues of faith and conduct within the haredi Orthodox community in Tel Aviv, as viewed from an insider’s perspective.

The festival jury praised the movie for “portraying a culture usually depicted in stereotypical terms with subtlety, sympathy and sensuality, and employing a style that is intimate but not intrusive.

“Fill the Void” has won seven Ophir Awards, Israel’s equivalent of the Oscars, and received high praise at the Toronto, Venice, New York and Sao Paulo film fests.

Hadas Yaron, who portrays an 18-year old girl torn by the choice of a future husband she chooses and another preferred by her family, won the best actress award at the 2012 Venice Film Festival.

Also honored this year in Palm Springs was the Holocaust-themed Serbian film “When Day Breaks.” In the film, directed by Goran Paskaljevic, an elderly music professor who has always considered himself Christian discovers that he is the son of Jewish parents who left him with a farmer’s family and later perished in the Holocaust.

As the stunned professor wanders through present-day Belgrade, he finds that few people remember the war years or that the city’s neglected fairgrounds served as a concentration camp for the local Jews. With his musician friends, he sets about to establish a memorial at the site.

Like the professor, “I cannot NOT remember,” Paskaljevic said in an interview.  “If we forget the crimes committed during World War II, and later in Bosnia, that opens the door to new crimes.”

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