Fill the Void (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

September 8, 2013 by  


Rama Burshtein’s “Fill the Void” is a rare and groundbreaking film that captures the complexity of love, emotion and sacrifice.  Recommended!

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DVD TITLE: Fill the Void


DURATION: 90 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Hebrew 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG (For Mild Thematic Elements and Brief Smoking)

RELEASE DATE: September 10, 2013

Directed by Rama Burshtein

Written by Rama Burshtein

Produced by Assaf Amir

Music by Yitzhak Azulay

Cinematography by Asaf Sudri

Edited by Sharon Elovic

Casting by Michal Koren

Art Direction by Uri Aminov

Costume Design by Hani Gurevitch


Hadas Yaron as Shira

Yiftach Klein as Yochay

Irit Sheleg as Rivka

Chayim Sharir as Aharon

Razia Israeli as Aunt Hanna

Hila Feldman as Frieda

Renana Raz as Esther

Yael Tai as Shifi

Michael David Weigi as Shtreicher

Ido Samuel as Yossi

Neta Moran as Bilha

Melech Thal as Rabbi

Fill the Void tells the story of an eighteen-year-old Shira who is the youngest daughter of her family. Her dreams are about to come true as she is set to be married off to a promising young man. Unexpectedly, her sister, Esther, dies while giving birth to her first child. The pain that overwhelm the family postpone Shira’s promised match. Everything changes when an offer is proposed to match Yochay, the late Esther’s husband, to a widow from Belgium. When the girls’ mother finds out that Yochay may leave the country with her only grandchild, she proposes a match between Shira and the widower. Shira will have to choose between her heart’s wish and her family duty.

When it comes to media and Hasidic Judaism, not much is really known about the individuals and the community is often seen as private and mysterious.

For filmmaker Rama Burshtein, a woman who is part of the Haredi Jewish community in Tel Aviv, Israel, her goal was to show the artistic side of the community and thus the film “Fill the Void” was born.

The winner of seven Ophir Awards including best director and best film, Burshtein’s award-winning film will be released on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics in Sept. 2013.

The film would star Hadas Yaron (“Out of Sight”), Yiftach Klein (“Policeman”), Irit Sheleg, Chayim Sharir and Razia Israeli..

“Fill the Void” begins with 18-year-old Shira Mendelman (portrayed by Hadas Yaron) with her mother as they go to meet potential suitors and is to be married to a young man that she likes.  On the day of Purim (a Jewish holiday), while her pregnant older sister Esther (portrayed by Renana Raz) arrives with her husband Yochay (portrayed by Yiftach Klein), Esther seems that she is having pain and when she goes into the bathroom, people noticed she has not come out.

We find out that Esther has died but the baby was saved.  As for Shira’s engagement, the father delays it due to Esther’s death and Shira and her mother Rivka (portrayed by Irit Sheleg) help Yochay raise the baby, Mordechai.

One day, Yochay’s mother asks Rivka if Shira would be willing to marry Yochay as it would be best for Mordechai and so far, the plan is to have Yochay marry a widow in Belgium.  The thought that her grandson would be taken away to another country and their only link to Esther would be gone, Rivka decides to not have Shira marry the man that she liked but for her to marry Yochay.

For Shira, she is torn by her heart to marry someone she likes and love and her obligation to family.  What will she do?


“Fill the Void” is presented in 2:35:1 and picture quality is good as one can expect from DVD.  The soundtrack which is presented in Hebrew 5.1 Dolby Digital is clear and understandable while English and French subtitles are easy to read.


“Fill the Void” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with filmmaker Rama Burshtein and Hadas Yaron.
  • Writer’s Bloc Q&A – (16:59) A Q&A with director Rama Burshtein and Hadas Yaron.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:07) Theatrical trailer for “Fill the Void”

While I know there are some who are Jewish would say this film would appeal and be more understood by those who practice Judaism, my approach to “Fill the Void” was with curiosity.

My feelings toward the film was how real and genuine the story and the performance was.  Costume design looked authentic but the storyline of arranged marriages and a person torn by what she feels in her heart and family obligations is not so far from what I have seen within other families who practice arranged marriages for their  adult children.

The film is about genuine feelings, an insight to the Hassidic community but exploring characters with genuine emotions.  Shira is an 18-year-old who looks forward to her marriage to another man that she will like.  But after her oldest sister’s death and because her mother does not want her grandchild far from the family, the family wants Shira to marry Yochay, the love of her eldest sister Esther, but it’s not her love.

There is no emphasis on the beauty of surroundings, but the focus on the capturing of emotion.  To capture realism, even though it’s cinema.  Long takes and what better than to capture human turmoil through a person’s thought and chance of love, being taken away for one to make a decision solely based on family.

While some people can’t fathom one thinking such a thing too choose family over love in a modern society, the fact is that many do.  May it be religious or cultural reasons, arranged marriages still happen today.  But unlike other marriages where a woman is not allowed to say no.  For “Fill the Void”, Shira is a woman who has a voice and this marriage, hinges on her answer. Will she accept it for family?  Or will she follow her heart?

Hadas Yaron is absolutely wonderful in her portrayal of Shira.  Realistic, natural, not overacted and a perfectly cast for the role.  It’s a role that calls for a subdued young woman, an older teenager who now has a chance of finding love according to her religion.  But it’s when her character is asked to make hard decisions, this is the moment where Hadas Yarron shines.

As for filmmaker Rama Burshtein, it’s great that she is the first Orthodox Jewish woman to direct a film about Haredi Jewish community but to also get the support to shoot in the community.  The fact is that the world sees the community as very private but within that community, there is so many positive aspects and talents that many people outside of the community don’t get to see.  So, this film is a groundbreaking film but also a film that I found as natural but also very real.

As for the DVD, picture and audio quality is good as one can expect on DVD but also featuring an insightful audio commentary by filmmaker Rama Burshtein and actress Hadas Yaron, including a media Q&A with the two.

Overall, Rama Burshtein’s “Fill the Void” is a rare and groundbreaking film that captures the complexity of love, emotion and sacrifice.  Recommended!



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