Ushpizin

Movie Review by Susan Hodgetts

Starring: Shuli Rand, Michal Bat-Sheva Rand, Shaul Mizrahi, Ilan Ganani

Director: Giddi Dar

Writer and star Shuli Rand won the Best Actor award at the 2004 Israeli Film Academy for this Israeli film about the daily lives of ultra Orthodox Jews in modern-day Israel. He plays Moshe Bellanga, who finds himself broke coming up to the Succoth, a festive holiday when Jews commemorate the time of the Exodus, and stay in temporary dwellings for 7 days. Having guests in your succah (temporary dwelling) is the ultimate honour. But Moshe’s visitors from the past and the manner of attainment of his succah have drastic consequences, not only in his relationship with his wife but also his relationship with the local community.

Ushpizin is translated as “holy guests”. After luck sent from God just in the nick of time, Moshe manages to obtain and build a succah. But two guests from his criminal past turn up to disturb the peace with his wife, Malli (Rand’s real-life wife Michal Bat-Sheva) and the local community.

A convert to ultra Orthodox Judaism himself for several years, Rand’s religion prevented him from acting and he assumed he would never act again, until his friend Giddi Dar convinced him to educate others about his way of life. Not only does his religion prevent him from acting about other subject matters, it also meant that the only woman he could act opposite was his real-life wife, who had never acted before.

Not a bad film by any means, it has some sweet and funny moments, but likely to only be of interest if you have a strong predilection for different religions, and particularly Jewish culture.

3 out of 6 stars

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