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Avanim - Los Angeles Film Festival

By Demita Usher

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To be a desperate housewife is not limited to Wisteria Lane, desperate housewives live all over the United States and all over the world, living lives of quiet desperation. In the movie, Avanim, there exists a Middle Eastern woman who lives such a life. Written and directed by Raphael Nadjari, the movie follows recent events in the life of Michaeli, an Israeli who works for her father at his accounting firm in an a deeply religious Yemeni community in Israel. She is the adoring mother of one son and the unhappy wife of a local building contractor who works long hours and is rarely home.

Desparate housewives are not just on Wisteria Lane

The movie opens with Michaeli sitting in a cafe waiting for a man in a cafe who turns out to be her lover. After a passionate tryst in a local motel, Michaeli rushes off to work, assuring her lover she will be in touch. The casualness of the departure leaves the audience with the notion that this affair has been going on for some time. She arrives at the office late with an excuse in tow for her father as to her whereabouts. As she settles into her daily routine, she is summoned by her father into a meeting already in progress with an assistant to the local rabbi.

Micheli is disgusted by the hypocrisy of the religious elite.

The meeting is in regards to the finalization of funding for a new Yeshiva (School of learning). Michaeli's father is deeply involved in this project to the point where he has been encouraged to some acts of dishonesty to solidify the funding. Michaeli is deeply concerned about what is going on and does not support the dishonesty that is being justified to complete this project. In private she tries to discourage her father form being involved in the fraud. Her father tries to justify his actions by stating that a greater good is being accomplished; a school of learning is being established so that young men can study to become rabbis.

Michaeli cannot support her father's 'ends justify the means' philosophy in regards to this project, but being a woman in a male dominated society, her voice goes unheard. The religious hypocrisy that she routinely observes leaves a bad taste in her mouth and pushes her to question and challenge the religious elite. The day that the final papers are to be signed by the rabbi, she calls her lover to arrange a rendez-vous at the same cafe. After the meeting she goes to meet her lover, but the meeting is never to take place, her lover is killed in a suicide bombing and she is devastated. This tragedy becomes the catalyst that forces her to re-examine her life. She is not allowed to openly mourn for her lover because she is a married woman and to do so would create additional problems. She instead uses the grief to break the chains of her repression and make some radical life changes that rock her marriage, her relationship with her father, and the religious community, which creates more tragedy in her life, but with her newfound sense of independence she does not look back.

She does not look back

Avani is a powerful film with a raw realism that Raphael Nadjari is known for. The movie leaves you with the understanding that human suffering is universal and that no matter where you are in this world the pain is the same, and weather you speak Hebrew or English, the cry of a desperate housewife will not go unheard.

FRANCE/ISRAEL.
106 MIN.
DIRECTOR / WRITER Raphael Nadjari
PRODUCERS Geoffroy Grison, Marek Rozenbaum, Itai Tamir CAST Asi Levi, Uri Gabriel, Florence Bloch, Shaul Mizrahi, Danny Steg, Gabi Amrani-Gur, Eli Eltonyo

For more information on this film go to: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0362427

Published on Jun 24, 2005

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