Filming of Natalie Portman’s “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” based on Amos Oz’s autobiographical novel, has proceeded as planned this week in Jerusalem’s Nahlaot neighborhood, with no overt friction with local residents.
A small number of ultra-Orthodox residents in the area had protested after they discovered that Portman would be shooting scenes there, and a local politician asked that the location be changed. But the local community council had reached an agreement with the film company in advance, The Times of Israel was told on Wednesday, and the location was not shifted.
Last week, filming took place in the Schneller area of Meah She’arim, an area far more universally ultra-Orthodox than the more mixed Nahlaot neighborhood, and there were no problems there either.
Channel 10 news reported earlier this week that Nahlaot locals sent a letter of protest to the municipality, reading: “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 reportedly accused the municipality of neglecting to inform the residents.
The municipality said it had received no such letter. It also denied reports of graffiti in the neighborhood denouncing the “foreign invasion.” Permanent posters in many Orthodox areas ask visitors to respect the religious sensibilities of local residents. The municipality had said that all the actors involved in the filming would dress modestly while in the neighborhood.
“There is a constant tension between the desire to celebrate diverse and interesting Jerusalem and the attempts by extremist groups to prevent this,” Deputy Mayor Rachel Azaria said earlier this week. “The attraction of the city, its unique architecture and the efforts of the film and television industry will triumph,” she vowed, “and the cinematic growth we’ve seen in Jerusalem in recent years will continue to flourish also tomorrow with Natalie Portman in Nahlaot.”
Much of the movie, directed by Portman from a screenplay written by novelist Assaf Gavron, takes place in Jerusalem, Oz’s birthplace. And, accordingly, the cast, which included a group of elementary school-age children spotted in downtown Jerusalem Monday, were dressed in 1940s-era clothing, with wool knee-length shorts for the boys and pinafore dresses for the girls.
Portman has been back and forth to Israel over the last few months to set up the production of her film adaptation. She plays Oz’s mother — she will speak Hebrew in the film — and asked the acclaimed author for the rights to the novel six years ago. He agreed because of his “high esteem for her work,” Oz told Reuters.
Portman received NIS 1.6 million (some $450,000) from the Jerusalem Development Authority to make the movie in the capital.
Like Oz, Portman was born in Jerusalem, but she moved to the US with her parents when she was three.
Jessica Steinberg and Spencer Ho contributed to this report.