Avanim (Stones)

Raphael Nadjari's film examines double standards in religion, in family life and in business - from a woman's point of view. A must-see film!

Autorin: Jennifer Gallagher

"Avanim" is the Hebrew word for "stones" which are an important part of Jewish culture and religion. For example, the Ten Commandments were inscribed on two stone tablets. Stones are thrown at someone when they have been sentenced to death. Yet another example: In the old days, merchants who sold produce by weight used special stones to weigh their goods. Some carried a stone for "regular" transactions and another one for cheating. The Torah mentions this in relation to business ethics and in fact even today, there are many expressions in Hebrew when talking about "double standards" that use the word "stones".

And Raphael Nadjari's film is just about that! Double standards.

Michale (Asi Levi), is a 30 year-old Israeli woman - by the way, the gender of the word "stone" is feminine in Hebrew - who works with her father in his accounting business in Tel Aviv. She becomes aware of doubtful business ethics when she finds out that her father is unknowingly being set up to commit fraud by a religious institution. Michale's busy daily life is not only taken up with her work, there's also her husband, her young son and, when there's time, brief and clandestine meetings with her lover - another double standard. One day, as Michale is on her way to meet her lover, she finds out that the hotel where they were going to meet has been struck by a bomb and as a result, she is forced to deal with all the double standards around her including the ones in her own personal life.

There are a lot of women's issues in this film. Amongst others, it examines the question of respect for women in a religious context when Michale doesn't cover her head on meeting the Rabbi in the Jewish community centre for a business meeting. Her father takes this a sign of disrespect, but Michale defends herself by saying that the Rabbi whom she's known since she was a child, knows she respects him and that she doesn't have to cover to head to prove it. "Avanim" also examines how women must show respect but how in many ways, they are not respected. For example, when Michale, desperate to be alone after all that happens, spends a night on the beach "to get some air" without telling anyone, her husband (Danny Steg) and father (Uri Gabriel) immediately think she has been unfaithful and accuse her of "wandering the streets like a whore". Her privacy isn't respected and she feels like a piece of property.

"Avanim" is definitely a must-see film. The cinematographic style uses extreme close ups, and hand-held camera so that you feel as if you're right there in the middle of what's going on. It also has a spontaneous documentary feel to it with a real-time pace that effectively makes us forget we are looking at fiction ...

Avanim (Stones)
105 minutes, Hebrew with English subtitles
An Israeli-French co-production between BVNG Productions, Tranfax Films, La Compagnie des Phares et Balises © 2003
In association with: 2:1 Films
With the participation of: ARTE France & Centre National de la Cinématographie
Written and directed by: Raphael Nadjari
Produced by: Geoffroy Grison, Marek Rozenbaum, Ital Tamir
Starring: Asi Levi, Uri Gabriel, Florence Bloch, Danny Steg