Posted at 3:57 PM on December 18, 2007
by Euan Kerr
It's taken me some time to see Gidi Dar's film "Ushpizin" (Holy Guests) but its charm lifted my spirits. Written by and starring Shuli Rand, it's the story of Moshe Bellanga (Rand.) He's an ultra-orthodox Jew in Jerusalem who is down on his luck. He's broke, the holiday of Succoth is approaching, and he and his wife are further depressed by having no children.
He and his wife Malli (played by Rand's real-life wife Michal Bat Sheva Rand) pray for a miracle, and their prayers are answered when a charity drops off $1,000 as a holiday gift. But, there are complications. A couple of Moshe's old friends, from a time in his life when he was less than devout, turn up and ask to stay for a few days.
The arrival of guests during Succoth, when observant Jews build temporary dwellings and eat and sleep in them to commemorate the Exodus, is considered a blessing. However these guests Scorpio (Shauk Mizrahi) and Yossef (Ilan Ganani) create more problems than they solve.
It's a sweet little film which provides a rare glimpse into the Hassidic life. Rand's portrayal of Moshe is particularly powerful as a deeply flawed man who has found peace of a kind in his devotion, even if he does feel that he is being constantly tested in his faith. Ushpizin's strength is it tells the story without a trace of saccherin.