PCL screens film to commemorate death of Israeli filmmaker

Jenan Taha

The Institute For Israel Studies screened the award-winning Israeli film “To Take A Wife” Thursday at the PCL as part of a three-part series. The film — written by, directed by, and starring Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz — is the first of three screenings of movies by the film-maker siblings.

The film series was coordinated after Ronit Elkabetz, who won numerous awards and nominations for her films, died earlier this year from cancer. Her work was often recognized for its high quality and social awareness by both French and Israeli critics.

“She brought a very unique voice to the industry,” said Galit Pedahzur, outreach manager for the Institute for Israel Studies. “I wanted to make some kind of homage to her memory.”

Elkabetz was one of the few female Mizrahi filmmakers to showcase the mix of Moroccan and Jewish culture in her films.

“It’s a piece of a culture that I think not a lot of people are aware of,” Pedahzur said. “[The film] is about family, couples, relationships, and it’s a very general experience that I think most of us will experience at some point.”

Set in 1979 Haifa, Israel, “To Take A Wife” tells the story of a Jewish Orthodox hairdresser, Viviane, who lives with her oppressive husband in a strict and traditional household. A former lover of Viviane reappears, making her question whether to leave her husband or give in to her stern family’s demands.

The film highlights the intersectionality of culture and gender in Israel. The main character is of Moroccan descent, and struggles to find a balance between pleasing her traditional family and husband, and making her own choices in the quickly-modernizing Israel.               

History freshman Nandin Dandar decided to see the film after taking a pilgrimage to Haifa two years ago.

“The idea of the oppression of women … it’s been really prevalent in my family,” Dandar said. “I like movies that have a lot of issues like this.”

Dan Eggleston, a member of the Austin film community, said that after seeing one of the other films in the series, he was expecting “another good film” from the directors.

The other two films in the series being shown are “The Seven Days,” on Sept. 21, and “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,” on Oct. 6. The latter will be followed by a guest lecture from Dr. Yaron Shemer on the Elkabetz films and the role they play in defining gender and ethnicity in Israeli cinema.