When Montreal-based filmmaker Francine Zuckerman began her latest project, “Half the Kingdom)’ in 1983, little did she expect that upon its completion six years later she would find a community had grown out of it. “Kingdom;’ a documentary portraying the paths seven Jewish feminist leaders take towards finding their places in Jewish life, has attracted a cadre of women the world over who find that the movie echoes their own experiences. Since its release, the film has opened to full houses at festivals in the U.S., Canada, Israel and Europe. It began its official U.S. tour in January 1991 with Zuckerman, its producer and co-director.
The screenings serve as a catalyst for audience members to open up to her. “People like to meet the person behind the film,” Zuckerman explains. “Women have needed to share their stories with me. It’s related to the fact that our voices have not been heard for so long. When they see the film they realize they’re not alone!’
The film, Zuckerman relates, is the culmination of a lengthy, internal process. As a feminist with ultra-Orthodox grandparents, she continuously asked herself questions about her own identity. It was during a 1983 Ottawa conference on Jewish women which she organized that the idea behind “Half the Kingdom” hit her. She states, “I felt responsible as a feminist to do this film and address the concerns of many women!’
Through taped interviews with women as diverse as the Orthodox scholar and teacher Norma Baumel Joseph, to the atheist university professor Naomi Goldenberg, “Kingdom” does indeed represent a wide range of views. Nevertheless, it consistently illustrates a commitment to equality and a challenge to the traditionally patriarchal nature of Judaism.
Together their testimonies serve to document, for the first time on film, the value of the modern Jewish feminist experience. “Kingdom” combines rare footage showing the historic moments from the December 1988 women’s prayer gathering at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, now known as “Women at the Wall!’
“Half the Kingdom” is a co-production of Kol Ishah Productions, Inc. and the National Film Board of Canada, Studio-D. Rental information is available by calling 1-800 – FILMS-4-U.