Friday, November 2, 2018

Other Israel Film Festival Spotlight: Working Woman

I’m delighted to be returning for the seventh time to cover the Other Israel Film Festival, which features a diverse crop of Israeli and Palestinian cinema and is hosted by the JCC Manhattan. The 12th Annual Other Israel Film Festival takes place November 1st-8th, 2018.

Working Woman
Directed by Michael Aviad
Festival Information

Something that has come to the forefront of the modern conversation is that sexual harassment is far too prevalent everywhere. The notion that a woman needs to work harder to get ahead is widely accepted as an unfortunate reality, and, as has been exposed within Hollywood and other areas, men use power as a tool to make women feel subservient and as if they have to do things they aren’t comfortable with in order to stay employed. This problem is rampant in America but exists in other places all around the world, in workplaces and environments of all shapes and sizes.

Orna (Liron Ben-Shlush) is trying to support her family and her chef husband (Oshri Cohen) as he works to get his restaurant license. As she begins a job in real estate working for Benny (Menashe Noy), Orna discovers that she has a real talent. Benny commends her performance and also expresses a more personal interest in Orna, one that she immediately rejects. Though she makes her commitment to her husband and family clear, as she continues to enjoy professional successes, Benny asserts his attraction to her more and more, forcing her to decide whether she can continue to excel in this role if it involves accepting such behavior.

There is an intimacy to this film and the portrayal of its three primary characters that makes the topic it deals with all the more impactful. Though there are others who work at the real estate company, Orna spends nearly all of her time with Benny, who sees in her a pretty face at the very least and a cunning operator at best, and seeks to cultivate that at every turn. He is also very aware of the power he holds over her, a dynamic that should be unfortunately familiar to many viewers of this film. His frequent accolades directed towards Orna in the company of others sting even more because of how he abuses his position, and that’s no more evident than in a scene when he brings Oran in to her husband’s restaurant and puts on an uncomfortable show to demonstrate just how much influence he exerts on her.

Ben-Shlush gives a formidable lead performance, imbuing strength and determination in an impossible situation, one that she seems to view at first as manageable before realizing just how Benny, who initially seems like a terrific boss, ignores the abusive nature of his own actions. Noy, who defended a mistreated woman onscreen in “Gett: The Trial of Vivianne Amsalem,” crafts a perfectly horrific offender, one who is charismatic and charming up until the moment that he crosses a line he would never acknowledge exists. Sadly, this film may not really portray an “other” in Israeli or any society, but it does present an effective and unsettling look at something so many people endure and can’t hope to escape.


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