Here’s a job title you’ve never heard before: Haredi action movie director.

Despite a tradition of shunning popular culture influences, it looks like Israel’s Haredi population is now beginning to embrace the power of film as a communications medium (hat tip to Reuters). Take, for instance, the plot summary of “Cry of the Dead”:

After nights being haunted by the apparition [of a friend believed to have died in a car accident], the pious Jew is instructed by his rabbi to repeat an ancient incantation, at which point, the troubled spirit, visible only to the audience, disappears to the next world.

(Hope I didn’t ruin the movie for you.)

Don’t expect Stephen King-style gore or a J.Lo-esque romantic comedy to make any cameo appearances in the Haredi cinema genre. In fact, due to “chastity laws,” women are not even allowed to appear in the films. Also notably absent is any kind of murder or violence. Car chases, of course, are still mutar (allowed).

Producer and director Roni Zarfati said what distinguishes the industry is that it remains instructive. “Inside the story there is an ethical message or a teaching, unlike the secular world where movies are just thrills,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t make comedies or even action movies.”

(Just no comedies or action movies involving women in any way.)

And of course, there are some people who fear film in general will lead to dancing. (I mean, other bad stuff.) And they do quote my favorite source, “a leading haredi rabbi and educator who declined to be identified.”

“Even if the films are done with the right intentions, there is a danger that allowing our children to watch films will make such mediums more acceptable and could lead to sinning,” said a leading haredi rabbi and educator, who declined to be identified. “Family life will also be in danger as people start to watch films. The centre of haredi life is the Book,” he said.

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Esther Kustanowitz

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