Little Jerusalem (film)

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Little Jerusalem
Theatrical poster
Directed by Karin Albou
Produced by Laurent Lavolé
Isabelle Pragier
Written by Karin Albou
Starring Fanny Valette
Elsa Zylberstein
Music by Cyril Morin
Cinematography Laurent Brunet
Edited by Christiane Lack
Distributed by Océan Films
Release dates
May 16, 2005
Running time
96 min
Country France
Language French, Hebrew, Arabic

Little Jerusalem (French: La Petite Jérusalem) is a 2005 French drama film directed by Karin Albou. Albou's film depicts how the conflict between the rational and the irrational drives the relationships within a Jewish family living in the outskirts of Paris.


Laura, played by Fanny Valette, is a Jewish philosophy student who has put Kantian reasoning above all emotions, including love. In the film, Laura's interaction with Djamel, an Muslim coworker played by Hédi Tillette de Clermont-Tonerre, exposes how Laura struggles to live by her rationalist principles as she succumbs into her feelings for Djamel. However, as Laura admits to feeling affection for Djamel, she is upset when she learns that they cannot have a life on their own because Djamel cannot afford to confront his family. Western philosophy has also made Laura very skeptical of the teachings of the Torah, undermining her relationships with her Orthodox Jewish family. Her family consists of her mother, her sister Mathilde (Elsa Zylberstein), her devout brother in-law Ariel (Bruno Todeschini), and her young nieces and nephews.

Fanny Valette and Elsa Zylberstein

Ariel and Mathilde's troubled marital relationship reinforces the film's theme of conflict. Mathilde (Elsa Zylberstein) is a woman who strictly abides by the traditions of the Torah, and believes sexual pleasure is forbidden. Ariel does not want to ask his wife to do things in bed that only he enjoys, and has an extramarital affair, for he does not dare to encumber his wife's modesty. Mathilde, however, seeks advice from the woman at the mikveh, or ritual bath, who corrects her and reassures her that Jewish law does not forbid pleasure in conjugal relations. As the film progresses, Mathilde gains more comfort, and the happiness in her marriage is reclaimed.

The passing of time is marked in the film by Jewish holidays, beginning with Rosh Hashanah and more specifically Tashlikh. Also shown are community celebrations of Simchat Torah and Purim.


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