So I didn't go all-out at the Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival like I have in previous years, but I still caught five movies there, and had a good time. One last movie last Wednesday, a drama of orthodoxy, rabbinical studies, and lesbianism--"The Secrets".
Naomi is the daughter of a famous rabbi, and an excellent student. She's arranged to be married, but begs her father to study for a year in an all-girls seminary first (which is frivolous, since women can't become rabbis, but she always loved studying so much). There she meets Michelle, a french student who's a bit of a rebel. As part of their duties, they bring groceries to a secretive shut-in woman named Anouk. Anouk is very sick, and can barely walk. But Naomi has been secretly studying Kabala (the seminary is in Safed, which was an ancient Kabalistic city), and devises a cleansing ritual for Anouk. All they have to do is sneak into the (male only) baths after hours. During this ritual they have to bathe naked together, and that awakens a little something in Naomi and Michelle. Okay, this will always be pitched as a "lesbian" movie but really the lesbianism is very brief and handled very sensitively. It's more a movie about overcoming fears and being true to yourself and to your faith. From that point of view it's a very well made, and extremely well acted movie. The story is sort of slow ("deliberate" is the polite word), and the ending is a bit ambiguous. I'd give it high marks for production design, very high marks for acting, and middling marks for story.