Natalie Portman's Directorial Debut Draws Criticism in Israel

Natalie Portman

The Oscar-winner's location shoot for "A Tale of Love and Darkness" is forging ahead in Jerusalem despite some blowback from the ultra-Orthodox community.

Natalie Portman's directorial debut, A Tale of Love and Darkness, has encountered some blowback from local residents during its location shoot in Israel.

Earlier this week, ultra-Orthodox leaders in Jerusalem's Nachlaot neighborhood filed a letter of complaint with the city's deputy mayor protesting the decision to allow the Hollywood crew to shoot there, while graffiti appeared in the neighborhood denouncing a "foreign invasion," reports Times of Israel.

Portman's film has been shooting in Israel since the start of February. An adaptation of Israeli novelist Amos Oz's celebrated memoir of the same name, A Tale of Love and Darkness chronicles Oz's early childhood in Jerusalem during the chaotic late 1940s as the British Mandate for Palestine came to an end, along with his memories of growing up during the early years of the Israeli state. Portman, 32, whose father is Israeli and mother is American, was born in Jerusalem herself. She will also appear in the film, in the supporting role of Oz's mother.

"The film shooting is set to take place on several sensitive streets close to synagogues and yeshivas. And the scenes being filmed should have been examined first to make sure they don't offend anybody's sensitivities," the letter from residents to the municipality reads. They also complain that authorities didn't inform them about the shoot and should have consulted the community before giving Portman's production free reign.

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In response, the municipality promised residents that all the actors involved in the production would dress modestly while in the neighborhood, in accordance with local customs.

"There is a constant tension between the desire to celebrate diverse and interesting Jerusalem and the attempts by extremist groups to prevent this," Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Rachel Azaria said. "The attraction of the city, its unique architecture and the efforts of the film and television industry will triumph."

In a word of support for Portman, she added: "And the cinematic growth we've seen in Jerusalem in recent years will continue to flourish also tomorrow with Natalie Portman in Nachlaot."

A Tale of Love and Darkness is produced by Portman's own Handsomecharlie Films banner. The company received about $450,000 from the Jerusalem Development Authority to film in the capital.