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Natalie Portman’s directorial debut criticized by orthodox Israeli protesters

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Oscar-winning actor’s shoot for “A Tale of Love and Darkness” is condemned by an ultra-orthodox community in Jerusalem

Oscar-winner Natalie Portman has been accused of mounting a “foreign invasion” by protesters from Israel’s ultra-orthodox community after arriving in Jerusalem to shoot her directorial debut, reports the Times of Israel.

Portman is in the city to work on a film adaptation of Israeli novelist Amos Oz’s acclaimed memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness, which has been translated into 28 languages and has sold over a million copies worldwide. The film details Oz’s childhood in Jerusalem in the chaotic period at the end of the British mandate for Palestine, as well as the writer’s experiences during the early years of the state of Israel and teenage years on a kibbutz. Portman, who was born in Jerusalem to an Israeli father and an American mother, will also take a supporting role as Oz’s mother.

Ultra-orthodox residents of the city’s Nahlaot district have written to Jerusalem deputy mayor Rachel Azaria in protest at the decision to shoot scenes there. “The film shooting is set to take place on several sensitive streets close to synagogues and yeshivas, and the scenes being filmed should have been examined first to make sure they don’t offend anybody’s sensitivities,” the letter reads. It insists authorities failed to inform residents about the shoot, and suggests they only discovered it was happening in recent days.

The Times also reports incidents of ultra-orthodox protest graffiti in the district labelling Portman’s film a “foreign invasion”. Authorities said all actors involved in the shoot for A Tale of love and Darkness would dress modestly, and pointed out the difficulty of balancing the cultural interests of the city as a whole with those of local religious groups.

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“There is a constant tension between the desire to celebrate diverse and interesting Jerusalem and the attempts by extremist groups to prevent this,” Azaria said. “The attraction of the city, its unique architecture and the efforts of the film and television industry will triumph and the cinematic growth we’ve seen in Jerusalem in recent years will continue to flourish with Natalie Portman in Nahlaot.”

Portman, received 1.6m Israeli New Shekel (£276,500) from the Jerusalem Development Authority to bring her film to the city. Observers report scenes featuring schoolchildren dressed in traditional 1940s clothing – wool knee-length shorts for the boys and pinafore dresses for the girls – have already been shot. Portman, who left Israel for the US at the age of three, will speak Hebrew in the film.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2014

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