Reviewed in brief: 'Pandora's Promise,' 'Fill the Void'

  • Updated: June 13, 2013 - 5:18 PM
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From left, Irit Sheleg, Hadas Yaron, Hila Feldman and Razia Israeli star in “Fill the Void.”

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Pandora's Promise

⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars

Unrated: Suitable for all audiences.

Theater: Lagoon.

 

It is a rare occasion when a longtime proponent of a social cause or scientific theory reconsiders the facts and performs a public about-face. That's exactly what makes the pro-nuclear power documentary “Pandora’s Promise” so refreshing.

The film presents a gallery of scholars, experts and authors who once led the charge against nukes but now believe that they represent the best alternative to polluting coal, oil and gas. The lineup includes “Whole Earth Catalog” publisher Stewart Brand, Pulitzer Prize-winning A-bomb historian Richard Rhodes, New Yorker journalist Gwyneth Cravens and English eco-activist Mark Lynas, who offer reasoned opinions about the present realities and benefits of nuclear power.

While the film takes seriously the radiation breaches that occurred at Chernobyl and Fukushima, it also notes that the public perception of their aftermath bears little relation to reality. Geiger counter in hand, director Robert Stone demonstrates that the background radiation around those damaged facilities is less than on the beaches of Brazil. While the film may not soothe every skeptic’s misgivings, it argues persuasively that nuke-produced electricity can be a major contributor to the needs of an energy-hungry world. Like many advocacy documentaries, it offers a one-sided argument. This time, however, it’s advanced by people who spent much of their lives on the opposite side.

Fill the Void

⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars

Rated: PG for mild thematic elements and brief smoking. In subtitled Hebrew.

Theater: Edina.

 

An intimate, insightful peek into the manners and marriage customs of an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community in Tel Aviv. Rama Burshtein's “Fill the Void” centers on 18-year-old Shira (lovely Hadas Yaron), the betrothed youngest daughter of the Mandelman family. When her older sister Esther dies in childbirth, the grieving family delays Shira’s wedding. As the weeks pass, Shira’s now-widowed brother-in-law, Yochay, contemplates a remarriage that would take him and his newborn son out of the country. The girls’ mother offers an alternative: Accept an arranged marriage with Shira and remain in Israel.

Shira is torn between her familial and religious responsibilities and her yen for self-determination. She’s free to accept or reject the man chosen for her by her parents. Should she fill the void in Yochay’s life, the impending gap in her family, or the empty space in her own heart? She feels a heady attraction to Yochay (Yiftach Klein), a devilishly handsome man in side curls and fur hat, yet she hoped to begin adult life with a husband of the same age and virginal background.

Burshtein’s portrait of the girl and her family balances luminous, creamy portraiture and edgy, off-balance compositions, mixing currents of emotional distance and desire in each shot. While the power in Shira’s society ostensibly lies with the patriarchy, Burshtein is canny about the back-channel maneuvers that frequently give women the upper hand. Her film is a moody, exquisitely told tale of love and duty.

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  • A Geiger counter records the radiation level in New York’s Central Park in the documentary “Pandora’s Promise.”

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