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USHPIZIN

SYNOPSIS:
Moshe (Shalom Rand) and Mali (Michal Bat Sheva Rand) are a poor and barren Orthodox couple living in a religious neighbourhood of Jerusalem. On the Jewish Holy day of Succoth (a reminder of the temporary wood dwellings used by Jews during the Exodus) they receive unexpected guests: two escaped convicts, one a friend of Moshe's from his shady secular past, the other his cellmate (Shaul Mizrahi, Ilan Ganani). Moshe and Mali believe that their guests were sent to them by God as a test of faith. A real tough test.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
There can hardly be a more pungent example of one of the golden rules of good filmmaking: cultural specificity. Ushpizin (old Arameic word for guests) takes us into the Haredi community of Jerusalem - authentically for the first time. Like his character, actor Shalom Rand was a secular man until he chose to bury himself in his religion. He was a major star of stage and screen. To entice him back for this role, secular director Gidi Dar agreed to Rand's requirements to have his wife play his wife, never shoot nor show the film on the Sabbath.

In return, Rand and his wife deliver wonderfully credible, multi dimensional performances that are so tangible as to seem like not acting. The story, too, is culturally specific but with that essential truth that it becomes universal. This God fearing couple expect a miracle - and they think they get one. When it goes as sour as their prized lemon (the best citron in Jerusalem, and a part of the religious ritual), they turn to God again.

Their guests seem God-sent; it's the perfect timing and they're hard to please. They are crude and selfish, and God's test seems unusually tough to pass with them around.

Played dramatically straight for the most part, the film teeters on the fence between comedy and drama, largely due to the controlled direction and performances. Michal Bat Sheva Rand is terrific as the put upon wife, ranging from the solemn and God fearing to the resolute and the terrifying.

Ushpizin is engaging, entertaining and has something to say about us humans, through the prism of discovering - or re-discovering - the importance of faith, and the strength it can impart. Especially under duress.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

USHPIZIN (PG)
(Israel, 2004)

Ushpizin, Ha

CAST: Shalom Rand, Michal Bat Sheva Rand, Shaul Mizrahi, Ilan Ganani

PRODUCER: Rafi Bukaee, Gidi Dar

DIRECTOR: Gidi Dar

SCRIPT: Shalom Rand

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Armit Yasur

EDITOR: Isaac Sehayek, Nadav Harel

MUSIC: Nethaniel Mechaly

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ido Dellev

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Champion Pictures

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 23, 2006 (Melbourne & Sydney)







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