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UK: Lions Gate Films
Cast: Shuli Rand, Michal Bat-Sheva Rand, Shaul Mizrahi, Ilan Ganani, Avraham Abutboul, Daniel Dayan
Director: Giddi Dar
Language: Hebrew (English subtitles)
USA & UK: 90 mins
USA Rated: PG for mild thematic elements
USA Release Date: 19 October 2005 (Limited Release - New York and Los Angeles)
UK Release Date: 17 March 2006 (Limited Release - London)
Winner of the 2004 Best Actor award at the 2004 Israeli Film Academy for writer-star Shuli Rand, director Gidi Dar's film, USHPIZIN (roughly translated to "holy guests"), is a revelatory - and humorous - look at the daily lives of ultra Orthodox Jews learning, living, and loving in modern-day Israel.
USHPIZIN is about a married couple, Moshe (Shuli Rand) and Malli (Michal Bat-Sheva Rand - married in real life to Rand), who are suffering through a financial crisis. Praying for help, instead of a miracle, two suspicious strangers with criminal pasts arrive on their doorstep. Moshe and Malli believe that their guests have been sent to them by God as a test of their faith.
The first film made by members of the ultra-Orthodox community in collaboration with secular filmmakers and aimed at general audiences, USHPIZIN introduces Western viewers to organizations, rituals, and customs such as shtreimel (circular fur hats made of fox tails that are worn on the Sabbath or holidays), gemah (voluntary organizations that distribute money and other necessities to the needy within the Orthodox community) and mikveh (ritual baths).
Disarmingly funny, the film also startles in its universality, depicting members of the ultra-Orthodox community in scenes of ordinary living, drinking, smoking, dancing, arguing, reconciling, listening to popular music, and grappling with their faith. In its ultimately celebratory, fable-like quality, USHPIZIN is a completely unique movie-going experience.