Bintel Blog

'The Secrets': The Best Lesbian Yeshiva DVD of the Year

By Dan Friedman

  • Print
  • Share Share

Yes, this is about lesbian yeshiva girls; yes, there is some hot action; yes, the actresses themselves are sexy. But, in the best Horatian tradition (“delight and instruct”), there is plenty of instruction hiding behind the sensationalist delight.

But Avi Nesher’s “The Secrets” is no sordid potboiler with a couple of redeeming insights. Although only released on DVD in America this week, it has been out for a couple of years, and in 2007 it garnered 8 nominations for Israel Film Academy Awards.

The reasons for its critical success are the reasons it can be accused of melodrama: It takes shortcuts to framing its questions about how to use and go beyond a tradition that ends up by oppressing people.

Noemi (Ania Bukstein), a Torah genius and favored daughter of a respected rosh yeshiva, chooses to go to a yeshiva in Safed when her mother dies — thus, leaving her arranged fiancée at home. She chooses a teacher committed to female education, but whose belief in the ordination of women is tempered by her accommodation of the male-led yeshivas.

At the yeshiva she meets Michel (Michal Shtamler), who has been forced to leave France for some unexplained misdemeanor. The two of them are placed together and, through helping Anouk (Fanny Ardant) — an act of charity to which they are first assigned and subsequently compelled to complete — they find each other.

Through Anouk the two girls champion new ways to embrace and further tradition for the benefit of all three of them. The film compares different ways of using and going beyond tradition: the possible continuities with the past and the dangerous need for rupture.

The exposition needs to be minimal to have time to ask the same question about tradition and development in several different ways. Love, marriage, death, forgiveness, sex (straight, lesbian, brutal bondage), murder, sexism, betrayal — all are dumped on the audience in constant succession, and it is a credit to the cast and the writing that the movie maintains credibility.

Perhaps the most pivotal character is Yanki (Adir Miller) because he represents the acceptable face of the status quo. A friendly young orthodox Jewish man, he is both friend and enemy, art and religion, tradition and a sort of progress. In Judaism, development doesn’t happen by spectacular triumph over evil it happens by changing the mundane. The film doesn’t finally commit to the victory of these young women, but at least it shows them in the real world of the mundane: vital, engaged and human.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Secrets, Lesbian, Avi Nesher, Yeshiva

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.