Ushpizin

"OK"

Ushpizin Review


Ushpizin profiles the spiritual struggles of a loving Orthodox Jewish couple (real-life husband and wife Shuli Rand and Michal Bat Sheva Rand) in present day Jerusalem and whether God has any value in the modern world. Those issues are properly answered; the film's relevance is questionable.

Moshe (Rand) and Malli (Bat Sheva Rand) are struggling. There's no money, the rent is late, and they can't properly celebrate the festive holiday of Succoth. After some fierce praying and an anonymous donation, the couple can celebrate the holiday properly but their faith is soon tested again.

Two prisoners on furlough escape to Jerusalem, where one of the prisoners knows Moshe and decides to pay a visit. Moshe and Malli -- unaware of their visitors' prior residence--are initially happy to have guests for the Succoth. That joy turns to frustration when the slovenly, rude duo takes advantage of their hosts' hospitality, so much so that Malli and Moshe's marriage and religious faith cracks. "I don't want to be angry, God Almighty," Moshe screams to the sky during his weakest moment.

Director Giddi Dar and screenwriter Shuli Rand provide resolutions after much tumult for the couple, which is where Ushpizin is strongest. They don't provide an answer as to why we should care about Moshe and Malli, or why they believe in the Orthodox way of life. Without the proper context, Ushpizin serves as a parable we've heard before, though the scenery and religion may be different. A look at the movie's website reveals where things may have unraveled, declaring Ushpizin to be "the first film made by members of the ultra-Orthodox community in collaboration with secular filmmakers and aimed at secular audiences."

Uh oh.

I'm all for understanding other cultures through film, just not the way it's done here, where we get a glossary to Orthodox life without anyone bothering to define the intentions and passions of the characters. Think of it another way. What if the outstanding documentary Murderball focused just on the rules and history of wheelchair rugby but ignored the players and their fierce attachment to the game, as well as their redemption through it? Is that a movie you'd get any emotional satisfaction from? Is that a movie that would change your mind about millions of people?

Ushpizin has educational value, but it's the wrong kind. We learn about the value of the citron and what a mikveh is. That is not information that will make an audience care or reap the kind of enlightenment the filmmakers think they're espousing.

Aka Ha-Ushpizin.



Ushpizin

Facts and Figures

Run time: 90 mins

In Theaters: Sunday 1st August 2004

Box Office USA: $1.4M

Distributed by: Picturehouse

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Fresh: 57 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 7.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Gidi Dar

Producer: Rafe Bukaee

Starring: Shuli Rand as Moshe, Michal Bat-Sheva Rand as Malli Bellanga, Shaul Mizrahi as Eliyahu Scorpio, Ilan Ganani as Yossef

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