The Schmooze

Is There an Orthodox Film Industry?

Orthodox filmmaker Rama Burshtein is a special case. Not only does she come from a community that frowns on film-watching — never mind film-making — but she has managed to create “Fill the Void,” a movie that has won awards and acclaim around the world. (You can read my recent profile of Burshtein here.)

Burshtein is not the only Haredi woman making movies, however, even if she is the most famous. In 2012 Tamar Rotem reported in Haaretz on the growing numbers of Haredi filmmakers in Israel, “a shadow industry in which the directors make films for women only, without subsidies and without establishment recognition.”

Such films, which must maintain a religious perspective, are usually not very good. Indeed, one of the most remarkable aspects of Burshtein’s film is that it breaks from the didactic mold, showing an artistically viable way for Orthodox artists to make films about themselves, rather than let others tell their stories for them. When I asked Burshtein about Haredi filmmaking, however, she argued against the notion that such movies represent some kind of “progress.”

“I’m not trying to connect with my Haredi community, they don’t need me for that,” she said. “It’s not about progressing or becoming ‘less primitive.’”

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Is There an Orthodox Film Industry?

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