Ushpizin is an Aramaic word meaning "Guests" It is also the name of a new movie from Israel directed by Giddi Dar, and written by Shuli Rand, who also stars in it, with his wife, Michal Bat-Sheva. This is the second movie I have seen this year dealing with miracles. The first one was from England, and was called, "Millions" It told the story of two young brothers, who come across a large amount of money. The younger of the two, fancied himself to be able to talk with the Saints. It was a terrific movie, that never hit the mainstream audiences, and disappeared shortly after it's release. If you have the ability to rent it as a DVD, I would recommend it. I fear that Ushpizin may share the same fate, and that would be a shame, because this is a wonderful film.
The e-mail from my friend alerted me of it, It was a link to, "Ushpizin.com" There I saw the trailer for the movie. Normally I would not need to mention that the friend who sent me the message was not Jewish. In this case I feel it significant, because he wanted to see the movie with me. The movie is playing in only one theater in Orange County, fortunately it is close enough to where we live.
I had my concerns going in to see it, Ushpizin is after all, a movie that takes one into a culture very alien to our California lifestyle. A Hassidic community in modern day Jerusalem serves as the backdrop, yet like all good stories, well told, it sweeps the viewer up with it's characters, and tells a tale that is ultimately universal in it's message. My friend did not need to know about the Jewish celebration of "Succos" that served as catalyst for the actions that takes place. A quick note during the titles tells one all that is needed to be known to enjoy the story.
During the seven day holiday, it is an honor to invite guests to partake of ones hospitality. Moshe played by Shuli Rand, and his barren wife Malli, played by Shuli's real wife, Michal Bat-Sheva, are a poor, but devout couple. Moshe is a good and honest man, but times are hard, and the two have to scrimp to get by. Their real troubles begin, when a friend from Moshe's past, a ne'er-do-well named Eliyahu Scorpio, played by Shaul Mizrahi, and his shady friend, Yossef played by Llan Ganani come to visit. They remain the duration of the holiday, challenging Moshe's strength, his commitment to live his new life, and his faith, that bids him to welcome the stranger and guests, even the unpleasant ones, as his Patriarch, Abraham did in his day.
I said this was a film of miracles, there are several, yet there is no parting of the red sea, nor is there any need for CGI effects, The goings on in this story are closely bound by the elements of chance, grounded in reality, yet the manner which the events of the film take place indicate an unseen hand guiding the events. The movie can be enjoyed as a fable, or a document of faith, a simple story well acted, or a profound look at the nature of goodness, My friends enjoyed it, and I came away from it uplifted, and wanting to see it again.
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