JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL: Premiering at the Toronto Film Festival to critical acclaim, Eyes Wide Open (Einaym Pkuhot) is a dark, disturbing vision into the stigma of homosexuality in the Orthodox Jewish community of Israel.
Premiering at the Toronto Film Festival to critical acclaim, Eyes Wide Open (Einaym Pkuhot) is a dark, disturbing vision into the stigma of homosexuality in the Orthodox Jewish community of Israel. The winner of the Ghent Film Festival and an official selection of the Cannes Film Festival, Eyes Wide Open, is a film worth its praise and adulation.
Aaron Fleishman (Zohar Shtrauss), an introspective father of four, takes over the family butcher shop after the death of his dominative father. He soon encounters the teenage Ezri (Ran Danker), an impoverished and homeless Yeshiva student. Though Aaron is ostracized from the community due to their developing relationship, the pair soon becomes friends and eventually, lovers. Confronted by his community’s Rabbi, Aaron declares that he was dead before meeting, and learning to love, Ezri. This event swiftly leads to violence within the community and Ezri is forcibly ejected from the society.
The character-driven film is both evocative and poignant. Though the individual performances of both Shtrauss and Danker are masterful to say the least, their pairing is beautiful and authentic. One could truly feel the burden of both tradition and love weighing heavily on the brow’s of each performer.
Director Haib Tabakman has chosen to situate his debut film in a dark and wet winter in Jerusalem. Rain and the darkness of night are used as metaphors for the omnipresent pressure to conform in the community. This design facet, along with the use of natural light sources, creates a dark and encompassing mood. The dialogue, aptly constructed by first time writer Merav Doster, is succinct and sparse; a wonderful union with the visual style.
Eyes Wide Open, a feature at the Festival of Jewish Cinema 2009, is a dark, enveloping and above all, honest film – a true vision of the pressures exerted on outsiders within tight-knit communities.