GREAT SADNESS OF ZOHARA, THE (director/writer: Nina Menkes; cinematographer: Nina Menkes; editor: Nina Menkes; music: Nina Menkes/Steve Beck/Duane Del Amico; cast: Tinka Menkes; Runtime: 38; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Nina Menkes; Facets Video; 1983)
“The strange images capturing a sense of being completely alone in this world are mind-blowing.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Feminist filmmaker Nina Menkes’s bizarre and enigmatic documentary is about a mysterious young, orthodox Jewish woman (Tinka Menkes, the director’s sister) searching for her roots in Jerusalem. The woman is alienated from her Jerusalem community and drawn into the spirit world, as a voiceover from the “other side” bounces forth lines from the Book of Job, some Hebrew singing and ominous pithy utterances such as “He who descends to the pit, will not come up again.” Though her name is never mentioned, if one can believe the title, the heroine would be named Zohara. She shaves her head and ventures outside her dreary bare apartment and treks off in an aimless manner past her unconcerned neighbors and out to the desert and desolate Arab territories in the wilderness. Her voyage is unique to her disposition, but one can’t help feeling her alienation and sense of exile. Supposedly returning from the desert cleansed, she once again returns to her Jewish community in Jerusalem and seems if possible even more isolated than before her journey. There seems to be no way out and no God or person to offer any help.
The personal short film (only 38 minutes) was made for under $6,000, has no dialogue, but the strange images capturing a sense of being completely alone in this world are mind-blowing.
REVIEWED ON 3/9/2006 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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