The religious fable Ushpizin is set in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem, a place with customs and culture so alien to America’s mainstream awareness that the movie may as well be set on Tatooine. But that’s the key to the movie’s success: It illuminates a way of life that is ever more important in today’s literally explosive world.
Dar’s protagonists, Moshe and wife Mali, are preparing for Sukkot, the seven-day holiday that calls for Hasidics to live humbly in a small wooden shelter. When a pair of Moshe’s shady friends from his shadier past arrives unexpectedly, the couple is foisted into a comedy of manners that they believe is a test from God. Predictable, if amusing, plotline aside, Dar details Hasidic customs, and his claustrophobic photography — even exterior shots of white brick buildings feel like interiors — illustrates the secluded nature of religiously orthodox neighborhoods. In the midst of our global clash of cultures, Ushpizin is a postcard — and a learning experience — from the edge.
Opens October 14 at Landmark Sunshine Cinemas 3L's