Transport two beautiful young women to a seminary in the holy city of Safed, throw in a murder mystery, a French cinema legend, a klezmer-playing pharmacist and a lesbian love story and you’ve got The Secrets – the astonishing new Orthodox-feminist feature from Israeli maverick Avi Nesher. Devout Naomi (Ania Bokstein) dreams of becoming the first female rabbi and quickly establishes herself as the seminary boffin, to the annoyance of cosmopolitan Michelle (Michal Shtamler), who arrives from France chain-smoking moodily. But the two become closer when they help dying outcast Anouk (Fanny Ardant) with a series of Tikunim – Kabbalistic rituals to cleanse Anouk’s murky past – while making discoveries about their own sexuality and debating their future as orthodox women.
Yes, it is as strange as it sounds, but this epic co-written by Nesher and London-born playwright Hadar Galron, and produced by Sharon Harel, offers an unusually bold portrayal of rebellion in the face of age-old tradition. Ardant’s presence is intriguing, while leads Bokstein and Shtamler invest their burgeoning love affair with quiet passion. Unique, though not for the faint-hearted. SM