August 24, 2009
Ushpizin
By Hilary Rowe *

By Hilary Rowe *

Released in the United States the fall of 2005, this simple and charming comedy-drama is now available on DVD.  An unassuming and unexpected film from Israeli director Giddi Dar, Ushpizin follows the story of a pious rabbi and his wife on the Succoth holiday in Jerusalem.  This movie should draw the attention of Christians and Jews alike for its humble but convincing portrayal of a couple's faith in God.  

The rabbi, Moshe, has recently undergone a major conversion from a life of crime, and he is too poor to afford the items necessary to celebrate the upcoming holiday.  In their despair, he and his wife turn to God to provide a miracle.  Their miracle comes in unexpected ways, however, when two guests (in Hebrew, ushpizin) impose on the couple and disrupt the sacredness of the holy day.  

Consistent with the humble story and characters, Dar’s style of filmmaking is so simple as to go almost unnoticed.  What is so remarkable about this film is its exaltation of religious devotion, its celebration of conversion, and its unapologetic praise of God.  For those uncomfortable with subtitles, the Hebrew in Ushpizin may seem daunting, but it can provide an excellent introduction to foreign film.  Ushpizin is accessible, beautiful, and inspiring, and I recommend it with enthusiasm for all audiences.

Hilary Rowe received her B.A. in Film Studies and English Literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2005.  Since then she has worked in campus ministry for FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.  She currently serves as FOCUS Team Director at the University of Colorado.

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