Keep Not Silent (Ortho-Dykes) (Israel, 2004, Director: Ilil Alexander, 52 minutes): This film takes us into very strange territory, following the lives of ultra-orthodox Jewish women who happen to also be lesbians. Most of these women are not able to live openly, so the filmmaker had to film very discreetly, blurring faces or filming behind curtains, so even the visual language of the film spoke of the way these women had to hide. But it was not all gloomy stuff. One woman, Ruth, the mother of six children, has an arrangement with her husband that she can visit her lover each night and even spend the night twice a week. Their rabbi told them that as long as they can keep the family and marriage together, Ruth’s lesbian “affair” was not a sin.
Not so for poor Yudith, who seeks to live openly. Her rabbi tells her that her behaviour is wrong, flat out. Still, she wants to have a religious ceremony to celebrate her commitment to Tal, her lover. Her brother and sister are supportive and the ceremony is attended by many friends, but Yudith still cries because her mother and rabbi father would not come.
A sensitive look into the lives of women under enormous pressure to keep very silent about their sexuality. Many are devoted mothers of large families, and will not risk exposure for fear of the social consequences their children and husbands will face. The spiritual tensions involved in remaining religious in these circumstances are also hinted at, though are not as fully explored as I would have liked.