Gett: The Trial of Viviane Ansalem ***1/2

by Andres Solar

Tense drama focuses on the hardships of females seeking divorce in Jewish law

Is it worth $10? Yes

The Israeli entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for 2014 is a raw, rivetting and poignant work written and directed by one of its stars (Ronit Elkabetz) and her brother (Shlomi Elkabetz).

In "Gett: The Trial of Viviane Ansalem," she seeks a divorce from her domineering, headstrong husband who repeatedly refuses to "grant" her the "gett" for many years. She brings her petition to the only venue that can legally here it: a tribunal of rabbis. Israel has no civil procedure for divorce. Delays, red tape, and capricious interpretations of Jewish law by the judges add to the suffering Viviane has endured for 15 years.

Over 90% of the film takes place inside an austere courtroom, yet it's wonderful to see what the Elkabetzes manage to do within those confines. Superior acting throughout allows for the parade of character witnesses to infuriate, puzzle, and entertain the audience. Humor finds its way in thanks to a brilliant script and sensitive directing.

"Gett" is an astounding, satisfying rebuke of a system of justice and a part of a culture where horrible, anti-female sexism is built in. You witness the judges of this tribunal allowing power to distort their judgment. After all, consider the powers they possess as men in a patriarchal society, as community "leaders," as rabbis, and as judges. This powerful film of impressive feminism (yet moreso coming from a brother-sister team) shines great sunlight on court systems ill-prepared to deal with a certain aspect of the law--the human beings to which it applies.

Andres Solar reviews new fare with an emphasis on art house and indie for Punch Drunk Movies. He would love to see Burt Reynolds in another Paul Thomas Anderson film but understands that it probably “Ain’t gonna happen.”

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