Israeli director Keren Yedaya's remarkable debut feature, which won the 2004 Cannes Film Festival Camera d'Or, is a powerful study of a teenager's willingness to do anything to save her mother, a Tel Aviv prostitute who may be well beyond salvation. In an effort to keep her mother, Ruthie (Ronit Elkabetz), from returning to the streets after a lengthy stay at a hospital, Or (Dana Ivgy) collects empty bottles, does odd jobs around their apartment complex and works nights washing dishes at the cafe owned by their upstairs neighbors, Rachel (Katia Zimbris) and her husband. Or even gets Ruthie a housecleaning job for a friendly, well-to-do woman, but Or has no illusions that her mother has abandoned her old ways for good. Whenever Or must leave Ruthie alone in the apartment, she makes sure to lock her in; otherwise, Ruthie's sure to head back to the dangerous alleys and side streets where she's turned tricks for years. With barely enough time left over for school, Or takes her pleasures where she can find them, which usually means letting one of the young men who hang out in a local park grope her in an empty doorway. It all seems harmless enough, but word of Or's promiscuous behavior reaches Rachel's ears and when her son, Ido (Meshar Cohen), spends the night in Or's bed, Rachel puts down her foot. She tells Or that she's too old for Ido there's a 6-month age difference but what she really means is that Or is too experienced, implying that Or may not be all that different from her mother. Or herself begins to wonder: Discouraged by her inability to make ends meet or keep her mother off the streets, Or begins her own descent into prostitution. Yedaya's stark, rigorously naturalistic style recalls neorealism, but she tells her sad tale without an ounce of the usual sentimentality; the intense bond that binds mother and daughter and drives the film is often rendered with surprising, unadorned candor. Yedaya does, however, offer a bracing social commentary. An outspoken advocate of prostitution reform, she explores not just the economic imperatives that drive women to sell themselves, but the psychological forces that help keep them on the streets. In a rare instance of an artist putting her money where her mouth is, Yedaya has promised to put the proceeds from this superb film, as well as the Camera d'Or prize money, toward establishing a halfway house for women hoping to escape lives of sexual slavery.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: NR
- Review: Israeli director Keren Yedaya's remarkable debut feature, which won the 2004 Cannes Film Festival Camera d'Or, is a powerful study of a teenager's willingness to do anything to save her mother, a Tel Aviv prostitute who may be well beyond salvation. In an… (more)