Writer-director Michal Vinik explores arranged marriages in the Israeli Ophir-nominated film, Valeria Is Getting Married (Valeria Mithatenet).
The world and North American premieres come a few weeks before the Ophir Awards–aka the Israeli Oscars–take place in mid-September. The film has nominations in nine of the eighteen categories, including Best Film, Director, Actor, Actress, and Supporting Actor. Surprisingly, Dasha Tvoronovich is the only lead who did not receive an acting nomination.
A Ukrainian bride, Christina (Lena Fraifeld), is already living in Israel and married to Michael (Yaakov Zada Daniel), a marriage broker. Prior to the film, Michael arranged a marriage between Christina’s sister, Valeria (Dasha Tvoronovich), and an Israeli man, Eytan (Avraham Shalom Levi). At the start of the film, Valeria is flying to Israel so that she can meet her future husband in person. Or is she? Christina went through the same process and she’s happy with her life with Michael. All Christina wants is for Valeria to be happy and yes, this also applies when she starts having doubts about this marriage. There are other things that I would like to say but it would spoil the film.
Even with a run time under 80 minutes, this is a film that is engaging from start to finish. Maybe it’s because I interact with Israelis so much but can be hard to tell where the drama ends and the comedy begins. Or maybe it is a case of Vinik’s script or the actor deliveries being uninitentionally funny? The film is more on the drama side but there are definitely times here where you want to yell at Eytan about his behavior. He only wants Valeria and nobody else! Is there no room in his heart for another woman? Listen, Michal Vinik is asking some good questions here. I can see why she has an interest in exploring such arrangements. As she says in her director’s statement, there’s an imbalance in the relationship. Again, this film is short for a feature film but it always keeps our attention!
Valeria Is Getting Married is one of those films that lead audiences to ask questions about arranging marriages online through brokers. Is it fair to pay a broker to bring someone in from outside the country? Never mind the papers and Hebrew Ulpan classes down the road. What happens when the bride starts to second guess herself? We see what happens first-hand with Valeria. Do you give a refund to the groom? And what if the groom insists on marrying this bride in particular? Are three Skype/Zoom meetings really enough to determine if you’re in love with someone? If she doesn’t want to go forward, does she stay in Israel or return home? Personally, my own line of thinking is that online encounters just aren’t enough to get to know someone.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Michal Vinik
CAST: Lena Fraifeld, Dasha Tvoronovich, Yaakov Zada Daniel, Avraham Shalom Levi
Valeria Is Getting Married holds its world premiere during the 2022 Venice International Film Festival in the Orizzonti Extra program. The North American premiere will take place during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival in the Contemporary World Cinema program. Grade: 4/5
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