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Israel selects ‘Void’ for Oscar contender

Film swept Ophir awards, won best actress at Venice

TEL AVIV — Israel on Friday selected “Fill the Void” (Lemale et ha’chalal) as its submission for the best foreign language film at the Oscars.

“Fill the Void” is a romantic comedy from first-time Hasidic director Rama Burshtein and is set in the ultra-religious world of Tel Aviv. Pic tells the story of 18-year-old Shira, who finds herself suddenly torn between family devotion and her own desires when her older sister dies in childbirth and she is offered as a replacement bride.

At Ophir Awards, Israel’s national awards, Burshtein’s pic swept the contest, scooping up statuettes for director, actress (Hadas Yaron) and script, as well as film of the year. The best picture winner automatically becomes Israel’s contender for Oscar.

The Ophir wins cap an extraordinary month for Burshtein, who made “Fill the Void” after nearly two decades of directing films specifically for the women of Israel’s cloistered religious community. She decided to step outside her community, she told Variety last month, in order to give the Orthodox a voice.

“Everyone has their own interpretation of how we live and none of us have really shared a story from within. And I felt that it’s needed,” she said.

Initially slated for a debut at the Jerusalem Film Festival in July, “Fill the Void” was pulled from that fest after being accepted for competition at Venice, where the movie earned critical praise and Hadas Yaron picked up the actress prize.