This entertaining religious mystery is a remarkable and dramatic inside view of women and their struggle to be heard in the patriarchal world of the ultra-orthodox. The Secrets is set in Safed, where the mystical texts of the Kabala were first received. In this closed world a vibrant religious community of scholars is nourished by the sun-drenched hillsides and the holy burial caves of the pious. Naomi, daughter of a revered rabbi, comes to Safed to study in an orthodox women’s seminary. She manages to throw off the yoke of an arranged marriage and eagerly dives into serious Torah study. Naomi impresses her teachers and catches the eye of Michelle, a rebellious new arrival from France. The headmistress assigns Michelle and Naomi to bring meals to the mysterious Anouk (veteran French actress Fanny Ardant), thinking they will learn the lesson of loving-kindness. When Anouk reveals that she is ill and seeking spiritual redemption, Naomi and Michelle start upon a secret journey of purifying rituals. This journey into the forbidden grows ever more intense when they discover their growing attraction to each other.
Screenwriter Hadar Galron grew up as one of the ultra-orthodox. Her story opens a dialogue among religious women who would rather possess themselves than be seen as a man’s possession. With a keen sensitivity to the need to maintain tradition and the need to keep evolving, The Secrets puts faith before religion. The film’s enchanting score incorporates liturgical music sung by women, challenging the traditional custom of forbidding religious women to sing in public.
From 2008 Festival: Director, Israel
One of Israel’s most influential filmmakers, Nesher was born in Israel but spent much of his adolescence in New York, where he studied at Ramaz yeshiva. At age 18, Nesher left Columbia University to serve in the Special Forces branch of the Israeli army. Nesher’s very first movie The Troupe was a controversial movie that shocked the Israeli establishment by ridiculing the “sacred cow” Israeli military; the film is an Israeli cult classic. A year later (1979) Nesher wrote and directed another Israeli classic Dizengoff 99 and three years later, he took a dangerous stab at a more personal endeavor with Rage and Glory, which tells the controversial story of a Jewish terror organization during the 1940’s. The movie caused a political storm, was lauded by international critics for its searing psychological impact and breathtaking imagery, and in 2001 was selected by the Lincoln Center Film Society as one of the most important films in fifty years of Israeli cinema.
After seeing Rage and Glory, producer Dino De Laurentis convinced Nesher to come to Hollywood. Nesher’s initial work came as a writer, penning studio assignments for such filmmakers as Ron Howard and James Cameron. In 1990, he wrote and directed the sci-fi mystery Timebomb for MGM (produced by Rafaella De Laurentiis) and the sensual supernatural mystery Doppelganger for 20th Century Fox, starring Drew Barrymore. Both films won prizes at the Avoriaz Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival in France, and both have attained cult status among Sci-Fi and Horror aficionados. The success of Doppelganger created an alliance between Avi Nesher and Buena Vista International, which led to the production of several witty tongue-in-cheek action movies, most of which premiered on HBO. Nesher’s next theatrical offering, The Taxman (2001), which he wrote, produced and directed, opened to extraordinary reviews: The New York Times called the film “A delight...a charmer of a mystery” and Jeffrey Lyons of NBC hailed it as “A cinematic gem...not to be missed!”
In 2001, Nesher decided to honor his father’s memory by writing and directing Turn Left at the End of the World – a surreal deconstruction of Israel’s immigration mythology. The movie became Israel’s greatest box office success in the last twenty years, as well as becoming one of the best-reviewed films of the era. Later in 2004, Nesher directed the highly experimental political documentary Oriental, which won the “Spirit of Freedom” award at the Jerusalem Film Festival. Nesher also received the Achievement Award at the 2007 Jerusalem International Film Festival.