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The Tunisian-French Laura is a young woman that lives with her Orthodox Jewish family in the Jewish community in the suburbs of Paris. Her mother is a widow that left Tunisia; her sister Mathilde is having troubles in her marriage because she repressed her sexual desire based on her misunderstandings of the principles of her religion. Laura is an open minded student of philosophy and works cleaning a school in the nightshift. While Laura feels a strong passion and desire for her Muslin Algerian colleague, her sister finds that her husband had an affair with a woman and looks for an advisor that helps her to interpret the true meaning of love and the duties of a married woman. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Despite premiering at the Cannes Film Festival and being director Karin Albou's first feature film the movie was disqualified from being eligible for the Camera d'or, awarded to any debut film playing at the festival, because Albou had previously directed a made for TV movie. See more »
La Petite Jérusalem (2005), written and directed by Karin Albou, was shown at the Rochester High Falls Film Festival as "Little Jerusalem." The title refers to the section of suburban Paris that is inhabited by first-generation Jewish immigrants--most of them from North Africa.
The Muslim-Hebrew conflict has apparently been transported to France, where each group is suspicious of--and hostile towards--the other.
Two Jewish sisters are trapped in conflicts. The older, Mathilde (Elsa Zylberstein), is a wife and mother residing in a modern, developed country, but still living under marital rules and customs brought from her native Tunisia. She realizes that there are problems in her marriage, but doesn't know where to turn for help. Seeking formal therapy would be out of the question. Instead, she receives counseling from the attendant at the mikva--the ritual bath. (This pivotal supporting role is portrayed beautifully by Aurore Clément. Another brilliant supporting actor is Sonia Tahar, who plays the girls' mother.)
The part of the younger sister, Laura, is played by Fanny Valette. Laura is a brilliant philosophy student who works at night as a cleaner at a school. She falls in love with a young co-worker from the Muslim community, with predictably problematic results.
This film could not be more timely--as I write this review, the immigrant communities in France (primarily Muslim), have risen in revolt against what they perceive as discrimination and prejudice against them within French society. Being an immigrant can never be easy. What makes it so hard is portrayed very well in this movie.
La Petite Jérusalem offers a glimpse of a world most of us will never know. The district isn't very attractive, and it's certainly off the beaten path for tourists. The people who live in Petite Jérusalem have to cope as best they can. This film shows how they go about this precarious balancing act. It's a wonderful movie, and is definitely worth seeking out. (In French, Arabic, and Hebrew, with English subtitles.)
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