Three young married women are trapped by the religious courts. They can't get a divorce because for the court to grant one they need their husband's consent. They don't know when they will ... See full summary »



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Three young married women are trapped by the religious courts. They can't get a divorce because for the court to grant one they need their husband's consent. They don't know when they will be set free because the date of their release depends on their husband's whim. They are forbidden relationships because a married woman is forbidden to another man. They are condemned to be barren, as a married woman is forbidden to bear another's child. Their voices are silenced because they are young anonymous women whose pain and suffering is embedded in the law of a democratic country in the 21st century. The film follows Tamar, Sari and Smadar's Kafkaesque struggle over a period of two years. Each of these three young women is doing all she can to obtain a divorce with the help of a group of female orthodox rabbinical advocates. Written by Amithos Films

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Release Date:

14 July 2004 (Israel)  »

Also Known As:

Sentenced to Marriage  »

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bad husbands exploit religious laws; women fight back
28 October 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

More than a decade ago, Israel's leading female directors wrote and directed three short films about women called Tel Aviv Stories (1993). In the third tale, Tiki, a female traffic cop, catches sight of her runaway husband and begins to pursue him in an effort to force him to grant her a divorce. Without this formal divorce, she is an agunah, unable to remarry, and, as a moral and religious person, unwilling to violate the sanctity of this enforced state of marriage by having affairs. While ostensibly a comedy, Tiki's story is a sad one, although her refusal at the end of the film to accept the rabbinical compromise that would free her is a triumph. She will make her own decisions rather than live while the law persists, even if loopholes would allow her to escape its strictures. For the women in Sentenced to Marriage, 12 years after their plight was the subject of one of the biggest box office smashes in Israel, there is no triumph, real or symbolic. The documentary effectively portrays the limbo in which such women continue to find themselves.

The English translation of the Biblical quote that gives the film its title is supplied by the filmmaker, the interpretation a deliberate statement. The three young women in the documentary, rich and poor, observant and secular, are serving an endless sentence, while their husbands remain at large, even marrying with the approval of rabbis and siring children. In a remarkable display of fairness, the film lays the blame on the individual members of the rabbinic courts and on the elusive and vindictive husbands, rather than simply on the system that allows husbands to keep their abandoned wives imprisoned in their marriage vows. Where viewers inclined to find fault with the non-secular aspects of the modern State of Israel will focus on the religious laws that allow such gender inequalities, the more discerning audience will notice that Anat Zuria, the filmmaker, finds much to admire in the rabbinical advocates. This is a group of Orthodox women (some clearly American), who fight to obtain divorces on behalf of these wives and who engage in midnight raids and other derring-do in their attempts to locate and confront the husbands. Zuria also makes clear that the Law could declare the new offspring of these wayward husbands "bastards" and use various other devices to force their consent, but the corrupt, individual members of the rabbinical courts simply refuse to do so. The ultimate judgment of the filmmaker seems to be that in this battle of the genders, men will use anything at their disposal to gain their end. And because Rabbinical Courts consist of men, their inclination is to support other men in this war of the sexes. It is the great irony of modern Israel that the secular State remains in thrall to religious laws in "nothing" except birth, marriage, and death.

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