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Torn between duty and grief, Shira (Hadas Yaron) has to mature quickly.

Shira, an 18-year-old living in an Orthodox family in Tel Aviv, is excited to be engagedto Pinchus, a unprepossessing-looking fellow about her age. But the sudden death of her sister, Esther, who leaves behind an infant son, changes everything. Shira's steely mother (Irit Sheleg) has an idea: What if Shira married her older sister's widower, Yochay? Torn between duty, grief and loyalty to her late sister, Shira is compelled to mature quickly and make a life-altering decision. Israeli director Rama Burchstein's elegant, critically lauded debut film, Fill The Void, offers a rare insider's perspective into a closed community that also has an unexpected familiarity– the director acknowledges a debt to novelist Jane Austen, also a model for innumerable Hollywood rom-coms. Now 46, Burchstein was raised in a secular American family, moved to Tel Aviv when she was child and studied film and television before coming to Orthodox Judaism more than 20 years ago. After she was introduced to a young woman who was engaged to her late sister's husband, she wrote a three-page treatment that got the attention of Israeli producer Assaf Amir (Broken Wings) who persuaded her to finish the script and direct the film. Fill the Void had its debut at the Venice Film Festival last year, where star Hadas Yaron won the best actress award. and it went on to win seven Ophir Awards, including best film at Israel's equivalent of the Oscars. – Liam Lacey

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Film critic

Liam Lacey is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More

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