01 March 2012

Some Ronit Elkabetz Films To See

I’ve had difficulty deciding what to do my list-themed blog post about. I’ve been going back and forth about it all week. After batting around several lists ideas—Israeli films to see, Ronit Elkabetz films to see, Israeli novels to read, kibbutzim to visit, lists I could have made—I’ve decided to go with the Ronit Elkabetz list. I found myself thinking about her earlier this evening; if she’s stayed on my mind, she’d definitely worth writing about.

Yesterday evening I was looking at photos of Elkabetz. She looks like (or reminds me of) Jennifer Connelly. I think it’s the eyebrows. Connelly is more conventionally beautiful, but it's impossible to stop looking at Elkabetz's face. 

Described once by the Jewish Daily Forward as "Sephardic Jewry's film princess," Elkabetz, indeed of Moroccan heritage, is likely Israel's top actress.* (Though, she has portrayed her share of prostitutes.) Her films are definitely worth the film-lover's time. Without further ado, here are in no particular order some Ronit Elkabetz films to see.

Late Marriage
This 2001 film pairs Elkabetz with "the Israeli Brad Pitt," Lior Ashkenazi. It's essential Elkabetz viewing. It sort of put both of them on the map internationally. Notorious famous for its extended sex scene between the leads, Late Marriage is the story of Zaza, a PhD student pressured to marry a nice girl by his Georgian immigrant parents. The problem is that he's in love with the completely unsuitable thirtysomething Moroccan divorcee Judith.

Elkabetz makes her second movie with her Or (My Treasure) collaborators, director Keren Yedaya and co-star Dana Ivgy, respectively. Ivgy once again plays her daughter. Jaffa is a Romeo and Juliet story. Ivgy stars as Mali, the Jewish Juliet to Mahmud Shalaby's Palestinian Romeo, Toufik, who works in Mali's father's garage. As in most Romeo and Juliet stories, things fall fatefully apart.

To Take a Wife
Elkabetz not only starred in this film, but also she wrote directed it with her brother Shlomi Elkabetz. Viviane, her character, is a hairdresser, wife, and mother of four. In To Take a Wife, the return of a former lover shows her what a flimsy foundation her life is built upon.

The Flood
The Flood shows that, like families everywhere, each miserable Israeli family is unique. By now, Elkabetz has more than proved that playing a mother does not mean an actress is past her prime. The film's center is Yoni, who is preparing for his bar mitzvah. He hasn't entered puberty yet; his parents don't really talk to each other; and his autistic brother returns home when the institution in which he was cared for goes bankrupt. 

There are obviously films that are not on the list. American audiences may be most likely to recognize Elkabetz from Or (My Treasure). She was also in The Band's Visit and Téchiné's The Girl on the Train. At any rate Ronit Elkabetz is an actress whose work is worth getting to know.

*For people unfamiliar with Israel, Moroccans have been especially maligned and denigrated in Israeli society, which has been socially, economically, and culturally dominated by Ashkenazi Jews.

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