Film on Hassidic life premieres in Venice

Israeli director Rama Burshtein provides an intimate look inside the private world of Tel Aviv’s Hassidic community in the film “Fill the Void,” which premiered this weekend in Italy at the Venice Film Festival.

A Hassid herself, Burshtein said she wanted to create a portrait of family life within the community without presenting it in conflict with the secular world.

The film is about an 18-year-old girl named Shira who struggles with whether to marry her brother-in-law, Yochay, after her sister Esther dies giving birth. The decision is Shira’s, despite the strict formality within the community, and the movie ultimately is a story about facing a difficult decision and becoming a woman.

The movie shows intimate rituals of the Hassidic community, from Esther’s funeral to her infant son’s circumcision ceremony immediately after,  and the workings of the matchmaker who helps broker marriages as girls reach Shira’s age.

Burshtein, 45, was born in New York and graduated from film school in Jerusalem in 1994. During that period, she became deeply religious. She has since been making films within the Orthodox community. — ap