Ushpizin is a movie about prayer, an almost contemporary version of a familiar Old Testament story. "Almost contemporary" because it was hard to believe that it was filmed just a few years ago. Shuli Rand is a professional actor who turned to an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle. Rand wrote the screenplay based on real life events that occured when his pre-Orthodox life was introduced to his new life of strict religious observance. Rand's wife also co-stars as his wife in the film, since Orthodox rules prohibit unmarried couples to have any close contact. She does a good job in her role since she is not a professional actor.
It is an encouraging movie about belief, even when we don't understand what God is doing in our lives. I enjoyed the prayer lives of the story's characters, and their world view. It dovetails along with the books I recently read: "Night" by Eli Weisel and "Evil and the Justice of God" by N.T. Wright. Weisel's book is a memoir of his Holocaust experience, but he writes a lot about the Jewish community before and during the terrible events. Wright's book makes several references to the Holocaust, specifically how important it was for the strong Jewish communities to be destroyed because they held on to the old moral values when a new order, Nazism, needed to be established to re-interpret right and wrong.
And of course, all this parallels the stories I've been reading about Bob Dylan, of his blend of Jewish tradition and Christian belief, but that's another blog entry.