Video: Eli Mandelbaum
Amid the labyrinth of narrow roads that constitute Jerusalem’s Nahlaot neighborhood, one small street has received a starring role in Academy Award-winning actress and Jerusalem native Natalie Portman’s directorial debut – the film adaptation of Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness.
As burly, unsmiling security guards cordoned off the roughly 100-meter stretch of road to keep onlookers and passersby at bay Wednesday morning, actors dressed in 1940s period costumes intermittently filmed scenes and took coffee breaks.
In between takes, dozens of Israeli film crew members scurried up and down the road to adjust props, speak with the actors and ensure filming was on schedule.
Despite being unaccustomed to Hollywood movie sets in their normally staid neighborhood, residents of the area expressed wonderment, curiosity and excitement about the filming.
“Look out my window! There are two donkeys standing there eating hay,” exclaimed Ruthi Yeschuva, whose thirdfloor apartment overlooks the improvised set of Jerusalem at the end of the British Mandate. Despite reports in the media that residents had complained about the filming, Yeschuva said the opposite was true.
“I have read the book, so it is very exciting to see it brought to life right here,” she said. “My feeling is that they are very organized – they didn’t just show up. They spoke with city hall to get permits to close the street.”
Although Yeschuva conceded that some haredi residents in the area may be aggravated by the cavalcade of camera equipment, props and actors, she said it was much ado about nothing.
“I think this is great for Jerusalem,” she said.
Ruth Cohen, who lives just around the corner from the movie set, echoed Yeschuva’s sentiments.
“It’s fantastic! Just great, because anything that shows Jerusalem to the world is wonderful,” said Cohen, as Portman filmed a scene walking up the street as Oz’s mother a few meters away. “Everybody should love Jerusalem.”
Another resident of the street, who requested anonymity, said that although she had heard rumors of haredi unrest over the filming, there had been no evidence of it.
“Someone mentioned to me yesterday that the haredim are protesting the movie, but I don’t see any signs of that here,” she said. “I mean, it’s annoying because you can’t go here and you can’t go there, but it’s fun.”
Meanwhile, actress Noa Raban-Knoller and her six-year-old son Peter, who also has a role in the production, took a break from filming to walk to the shuk to buy snacks.
Dressed in their costumes and covered in makeup, the duo glowed with excitement.
“We’re here for two days of filming a fantasy sequence, and it’s so exciting,” said Raban-Knoller, as Peter stared at the nearby donkeys. “It’s great, and the story is amazing! We’re so happy they’re filming in Israel.”