Winner of the script prize at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, Karin Albou's La Petite Jérusalem pits intimacy against sex and ideology against divinity, "with candor, sympathy and excellent cinematography," (Nathan Lee, The New York Times). Offering an unusual glimpse into an unseen, cloistered world, the film sensitively lays bare the souls and passions of two sisters in search of sexual and spiritual identity.
In a Paris suburb nicknamed Little Jerusalem, a family of Sephardic Orthodox immigrants shares a low-income apartment. Beautiful, teenaged Laura (Fanny Valette) distances herself from her family's religion and her own burgeoning desire by devoting every waking moment to intellectual discipline and secular philosophy. Mathilde (Elsa Zylberstein, That Day), Laura's married older sister, worries that strict observance of the Torah's marital codes has driven her husband Ariel (Bruno Todeschini, Code Unknown) into the bed of another. When Laura falls under the spell of Djamel, a handsome Muslim journalist, and Mathilde discovers that her worst fears are true, the two very different sisters find themselves in very similar crises.
"I won't be a slave to my senses," says the rigorously rational Laura. But as her sexual awakening consumes her, Laura risks rejection from her own community and harm at the hands of anti-Semitic street gangs. At the same time, Mathilde struggles to reconcile her traditional responsibilities to her husband with moral law, personal modesty, and physical desire. A film of graceful delicacy and luminous sensuality, La Petite Jerusalem subtly depicts the personal journeys taken by two modern women raised in an ancient faith.
"...[Karin Albou's]focus is far more personal than political, putting a human face on the profound, never-ending conflicts between faith and passion, family duty and carnal desire, and the sensual versus the intellectual." *** Recommended Video Librarian
"RICH AND GENTLY INTOXICATING... Albou opens up the physical and psychological spaces of two strong Jewish women..." -Ã‚Â Nathan Lee, The New York Times
"AN ENGAGING STYLE...TOP-NOTCH PERFORMANCES." - Bilge Ebiri, NEW YORK MAGAZINE