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Page 3 Profile: Natalie Portman, actress and director

Leading lady?

Not this time. The Oscar-winning actress is making her directorial debut with A Tale of Love and Darkness, an adaption of Amos Oz’s acclaimed memoir of the same name.

The book, which has been translated into 28 languages and has sold more than a million copies worldwide, chronicles the Israeli author’s childhood in Jerusalem at the end of the British Mandate for Palestine and the early years of the State of Israel.

Not even a bit part?

Actually the 32-year-old Black Swan star, who was born Natalie Hershlag and lived in Jerusalem until her family moved to the United States when she was three, will take a supporting role as Oz’s mother and will speak Hebrew in the film that she co-wrote.

And she’s filming on location?

Yes. However, residents of Nahlaot, the ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood where Portman is currently based, have written to Jerusalem’s Deputy Mayor, Rachel Azaria, to protest about the decision to film scenes there. “The film shooting is set to take place on several sensitive streets close to synagogues and yeshivas [educational institutions], and the scenes being filmed should have been examined first to make sure they don’t offend anybody’s sensitivities,” the letter reads.

Uh oh. I suppose the cast is  gallivanting around in revealing attire?

A group of primary school-age actors have been spotted dressed in 1940s-era clothing, with wool knee-length shorts for the boys and pinafore dresses for the girls. Despite the municipality saying that all the actors involved in the filming will dress modestly while in the area. Incensed locals have made their feelings known via graffiti denouncing the “foreign invasion” coming to the neighbourhood.

Are the authorities buckling under public pressure?

Not if the response from Azaria is anything to go by. “There is a constant tension between the desire to celebrate diverse and interesting Jerusalem and the attempts by extremist groups to prevent this,” she said. “The attraction of the city, its unique architecture and the efforts of the film and television industry will triumph and the cinematic growth we’ve seen in Jerusalem in recent years will continue to flourish with Natalie Portman in Nahlaot.”

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