Homosexuality in the Orthodox community is the subject of a very dark and disturbing Israeli film, Eyes Wide Open (Einaym Pkuhot) which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Aaron Fleishman (Zohar Shtrauss) is a father of 4 who takes over the family kosher butcher shop following the death of his father.
Aaron's observant world is turned upside down with the arrival of a young Yeshiva student Ezri (Ran Danker). When Aaron and Ezri begin spending time together, Aaron is quickly ostracized within the Orthodox community. Confronted by Rabbi Vaisben (Tzahi Grad), Aaron declares he was dead before meeting Ezri. We see how quickly social control turns violent and ugly in the Orthodox community when Ezri is forced to leave.Eyes Wide Open is set during a dark and wet winter in Jerusalem. Rain and the darkness of night are used as metaphors for the ritual of cleansing and the omnipresent pressure to conform in the Orthodox community. It has a strong cast and delivers a powerful message in a country divided by debates about the growing influence of the Orthodox Jewish community.
Rated R for language including sexual references, and some nudity.
Israel Drama 2009, 90 mins
Hebrew, Yiddush with Hebrew & English subtitles.
2009 Israeli Film Academy
- Nominated Best Costume Design
- Nominated Best Supporting Actor: Ran Danker
2009 Ghent International Film Festival
- Won Grand Prix Best Film: Haim Tabakman
2009 Jerusalem Film Festival
- Won Best Actor: Zohar Shtrauss
2010 Palm Springs International Film Festival
- Won John Schlesinger Award : Haim Tabakman
2009 Stockholm Film Festival
- Nominated Bronze Horse: Haim Tabakman
'Eyes Wide Open' has a wonderful sense of sincerity to it. It's a small, unpretentious film which manages to plunge to emotional depths without being showy or sensational. This restraint imbues the film with much power and conviction in telling the story of a family man whose inner world is torn apart when he falls in love with a young man. What makes this scenario unique is that the milieu in which this is played out, is that of the ultra Orthodox Jewish society in Jerusalem. As with all extreme religions there is of course no place for deviants from the norm.
Aharon, the protagonist, is a deeply religious man searching for truths who has to face the truth of his own heart. In perhaps the most poignant scene of the film, he confesses to his horrified spiritual mentor that he feels he's truly come alive for the first time.
'Eyes Wide Open' is the debut feature film of director Haim Tabakman. It is unusual for a first time director to demonstrate such assurance of style and tone. What would make or break a film of this nature is the quality of the performances. All the secondary parts are well played, but it is Zohar Strauss utterly convincing lead performance which makes the film work. There is not one false moment. This makes the inherent tragic situation an extremely moving one to behold. Highly recommended.'