Is directing a movie one of those skills you never forget, like riding a bicycle?


That must have been a question that went through the mind of Rama Burshtein when her debut film “Fill the Void” came out in Israel last year.

More than 20 years had passed since she graduated from the Sam Spiegel film school in Jerusalem and became haredi, leaving her secular life and passion for the silver screen far behind. But if anyone had doubts about her abilities, they were soon laid to rest: The movie won seven Israeli academy awards and was a box office hit by local standards. The film is set for theatrical release in the United States on May 24.

Burshtein’s confidence and charisma were on display at the Sony Center in New York City on Wednesday night after a special screening for the Overseas Press Club. “What always helped me is that I have no fear,” she said.

“Fill the Void” focuses on Shira, a young haredi woman struggling to pick a groom. Set in the insular world of the small haredi community in Tel Aviv, its themes — mortality, maternity, the role of women in society — are surprisingly universal. Burshtein acknowledges an artistic debt to Jane Austen, one of her favorite authors.

Before embarking on her journey, she needed the approval of “two rabbis”: Her husband and her community’s grand rabbi. Both gave her their support.

Asked about her next project, Burhstein let out a deep sigh and spoke about the energy-consuming process she went through making “Fill the Void.” But she did reveal she is at work on something new, a story that would take place in New York.

If her impressive debut is anything to go by, Burshtein is sure to continue being a unique and interesting voice in Israeli cinema for years to come.

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