Film Review by Kam Williams
Women Resist Replacement Rabbi’s Repressive Rules in Delightful Tale of Female Empowerment
A bar mitvah is in full swing at an Orthodox temple in Jerusalem when the balcony designated for women worshipers suddenly gives way. Once the dust settles, the attendees discover to their horror that the collapse has left the wife of the rabbi in a coma, and her inconsolable husband (Abraham Celektar) in a state of shock.
As the days roll by, it becomes clear that neither Rabbi Menashe nor the Mussyof Synagogue will be back to normal anytime soon. With the building closed pending renovations, the congregation is initially grateful to find a temporary home out of town. However, its distant location makes it impossible to assemble a minyan, the quorum of 10 required to stage a religious service.
A savior seemingly arrives in David (Avraham Aviv Alush), a young rabbi who is not only willing to host services nearby but to supervise the synagogue’s restoration project. Trouble is, he is also an ardent advocate of an ultra-orthodox philosophy, and it isn’t long before he attempts to implement his patriarchal interpretation of the scriptures.
First, he directs the women to exhibit more modesty by always covering their heads with a scarf. Next, he announces that the temple’s balcony will not be repaired after all and that they will have to pray in a different room from the men for now on, as dictated by ancient tradition.
None of this news sits well with the tight-knit ladies of Mussyof who immediately mount a rebellion. Taking a page out of Aristophanes’ 2,500 year-old classic, Lysistrata, as well as from Spike Lee’s latest “joint,” Chi-Raq, they conspire to withhold sex until their hubbies come to their senses.
All of the above plays out in hilarious fashion in The Women’s Balcony, a delightful tale of female empowerment directed by Emil Ben-Shiron. The picture was already a hit over in Israel where it landed five of that country’s Academy Award nominations. Kudos, too, to Menemsha Films’ Neil Friedman who has an uncanny knack of acquiring charming sleepers certain to resonate with art house aficionados, a la Dough, The Rape of Europa, Beauty in Trouble and The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, to name a few.
Don’t miss Menemsha’s latest jewel, a comical clash of outlooks, pitting a self-assured sisterhood against a bewildered, backwards brotherhood.
Excellent (4 stars)
In Hebrew with subtitles
Running time: 96 minutes
Production Studio: Pie Films
Distributor: Menemsha Films
To see a trailer for The Women’s Balcony, visit: