'Fill the Void' tells the story of a family struck by grief in the Jewish ultra-orthodox world in Tel Aviv. (Asaf Sudri)
Much to her surprise, Israeli actress Hadas Yaron won the Coppa Volpi Award for Best Actress at the 69th Venice Film Festival over the weekend. The 22-year-old took the title role in Rama Burshtein’s film – Fill the Void (Lemale et Ha’chalal) – about the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Tel Aviv.
Yaron had already returned to Tel Aviv after the film’s premiere earlier last week when the producer called her on Friday night to tell her that the judges wanted her to attend Saturday night’s awards ceremony.
“I’m amazed and excited,” said Yaron, who assumed she was called back for the ‘best up and coming’ honor. “You can’t prepare for such a moment. It’s beyond my dreams.”
Burshtein’s film created a huge buzz at the prestigious festival as it offers a glimpse into a world usually not seen.
Dubbed the ‘Jane Austen of the ultra-orthodox world,’ the plot tells of a young bride torn between love and familial obligations. Yaron’s character Shira is an 18-year-old woman who is arranged to get married to a young man she saw once in a supermarket.
But tragedy strikes when her older sister Esther dies giving birth. While Esther’s husband Yochai is pressed to remarry a widow in Belgium, the girls’ mother is afraid to lose her grandchild and instead wants Shira to marry her dead sister’s husband.
Altogether there were six Israeli films screened at the Venice festival: The Cutoff Man, Water (shorts by Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers – which opened Critics’ Week), Hayuta and Berl, The Inheritance, Lullaby for My Father and Fill the Void.
In 2009, Israeli director Samuel Maoz’s film Lebanon won the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival.