Shalom Life | May 22, 2015

Natalie Portman’s Hebrew-language Directorial Debut Prompts Controversial Reviews

Portman’s new film about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict garners a considerable amount of dialogue regarding its perspective

By: Daina Goldfinger

Published: May 19th, 2015 in Culture » Film » News

This past weekend, famous Israeli-born American actress, and one of our top 50 hottest Jewish women of 2014, Natalie Portman, made her directorial debut at the Festival de Cannes in France. Her new film and directorial debut, A Tale of Love and Darkness, showcases a profound memoir of the popular Israeli author, Amos Oz and his experiences that have derived from the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Oz’s heart-wrenching and moving autobiography is written entirely in Hebrew, and explores the story of a male adolescent after World War II before Israel’s independence from the British Mandate. The memoir documents up until the United Nations’ partition plan for the region, which facilitated the grounds for the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Oz’s autobiography is examined through a young boy’s eyes and his personal experiences during this unpredictable time in history. His mother, Fania, who is played by Portman, becomes depressed following her relocation to Jerusalem after the war. Portman’s character is from an Eastern European village in Rovno, a city that was claimed by different countries over the years, including Lithuania, Poland, the Soviet Union and Ukraine. The instability in this region has contributed to a great amount of turmoil for Fania – all of which is witnessed by her son.

The film works to intricately display both sides of the conflict by showing an increased amount of sympathy for the Palestinian-Arabs, while simultaneously depicting a fervent nationalism for the state of Israel.

Portman demonstrates her meticulous and captivating directorial abilities through a number of scenes, in addition to her commitment to consistency, with the entire film being shot in Hebrew.

“My Hebrew is good, but I make a lot of mistakes, so I worked with a language coach for the entire pre-production,” Portman told the LA Times.“I had to work so much on the language, I knew every line in the script like the back of my hand.”

The film hits home for Portman, who has voiced her connection to Israel in a number of interviews. Despite her loyalty and support for the Jewish state, Portman has denounced current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu by disagreeing with many of his policies and assertions.

Portman told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview, “I’m very much against Netanyahu. I am very, very upset and disappointed that he was elected. I find his racist comments horrific.” She also mentions her fear of rising anti-Semitism in Europe in the interview as well.

A Tale of Love and Darkness has expectedly elicited a large amount of controversy as to whether Portman’s depiction of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the film is biased or not. The film has been described as a “love letter to Israel” – something which is entirely debatable.

Portman’s film has also been reported to accurately display a Jewish woman’s plight in accordance to the history and instability experienced post-Holocaust.

A Tale of Love and Darkness still does not have a scheduled release date for public viewing, but if there is one thing we can look forward to – it’s Portman’s capability to deliver. Portman's been keeping herself pretty busy, signing on to play both Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Jackie Kennedy in two of her upcoming roles.

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