• Film

Foreign Film Submissions, 2015: Apples from the Desert (Israel)

Part of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s mission is to foster greater understanding through world cinema. This year 72 Foreign Language films were submitted for Golden Globes consideration. Here is an overview of one of them.

Life is boring as usual at the house of Rivkah (promising young Israeli actress Moran Rosenblatt) the only child of Ultra Orthodox merchant Abarbanel (Shlomi Koriat) and his obedient wife, Victoria (Reymonde Amsallem) who still carries the weight of not being able to give him more children after she had complications during childbirth. For Rivkah, 19, everything is related to religious life, with the picture of the rabbi presiding over the living room at her house and also her father's little store. Her future is not bright: university is not an option and her only possible path is to marry someone from the same way of life. Rivkah has never had problems showing off her rebellious nature, and an obscure incident in which she tried to take her own life years ago is still part of daily conversations. That rebellious nature is what inspires her aunt (Irit Kaplan) who still hasn't married and dares to get rid of a few clothes when she's alone at her house. It also is what worries her father very much, and also her mother.

Things get further complicated when Rivkah joins a class on rikudim, the Israeli folk dances. Just like that, by chance, she discovers a complete new world where she can express herself following the music. At the dance studio she meets Dooby (Elisha Banai making an impressive acting debut in this film), a very nice guy – a singer and guitarist, who seems to be interested in her. When she breaks the rule of going from home to work and back to home to attend the class, a lot of suspicion starts to arise at home, and Abarbanel decides to take an offer from an important member of the rabbi's entourage, a widower with three children, twice her age, who wants to marry her.

That's the straw that breaks the camel's back for Rivkah, who desperately calls Dooby and ask him to pick her up. He gives her asylum in his kibbutz, where Orthodox Jews are not necessarily welcomed. Still, she decides to stay, even if it's hard for her to maintain her religious traditions and she sometimes clashes with the local residents, especially Dooby's father, a fervent liberal who is not keen on the still platonic relationship. Meanwhile, a former member of Rivkah's congregation who is enjoying a new life as kibbutzim takes advantages of the good savior’s absence kissing Rivkah and creating more confusion in her mind.

A good mix of cultural portrait of two very different lifestyles that shape Israeli society and old fashioned romance, Apples from the Desert was nominated for three awards by the Israeli Film Academy, Best Costume Design and Best Supporting Actor and Actress for Banai and Amsallem, who was previously nominated another four times, winning in 2011 for My Lovely Sister.

Gabriel Lerman