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Disobedience 2017



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About the Disobedience 💬

From Sebastián Lelio, writer-director of the Academy Award-winning 'A Fantastic Woman', DISOBEDIENCE is a romantic drama that explores the fraught boundaries between spiritual devotion and sexuality. DISOBEDIENCE is his first English-language feature.

When her estranged rabbi father Rav Krushka (Anton Lesser) suddenly passes away, Ronit (Rachel Weisz) returns from New York to the north London Orthodox Jewish community that rejected her years previously after a scandalous transgression.

Ronit's presence immediately courts further controversy when she runs into Esti (Rachel McAdams), the wife of her strictly religious old friend Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) and the woman for whom she shared an illicit attraction in their childhood. This happy reunion soon reignites the two women's burning, long-unrequited passions, an act of defiance that could alter the course of their lives forever.


Q: What attracted you to the material and why did you want to explore this story?

Sebastián Lelio: I immediately fell in love with the three main characters; it is a love story between all three of them and how their relationships evolve and their lives are affected by these days of grief.

Q: As a Chilean director, how did you find working on the subject matter of Jewish Orthodox in North London?

Sebastián Lelio: The Jewish Orthodox background is of course very important but what's really going on in the film, in a certain way transcends that particular cultural specificity. The heart of the story is very universal.

Q: How would you describe your process of working with actors?

Sebastián Lelio: I love actors and have a way of working with them where you're still able to see the person behind the character. So what you see on the screen is the person interpreting the character, you see an actor giving an artistic battle in front of your eyes and I do believe that is where the greatest amount of cinematic pleasure comes from.

Q: How would you describe the relationship between Ronit, Esti, and Dovid?

Sebastián Lelio: Ronit is this modern, free-spirited woman who has run away from her origins. Esti has stayed in the community but has run away from her true self. By letting Ronit know of her father's death, Esti not only allows Ronit the opportunity to reconnect with her origins but also calls her own destiny; knowing this is her last chance to be set free. And there is this other important element of Dovid, the Rav's spiritual son and natural successor. The days of mourning allow all these passions and repressed feelings to come out and a new order is established.

Q: And what did Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams and Alessandro Nivola bring to the trio of friends?

Sebastián Lelio: They are like a rock'n'roll band with three guitar players, and that brought the main source of energy to the film; they're defending their characters and that creates great cinematic tension.

Q: Can you elaborate on the relationship between Ronit and Esti and what Rachel Weisz and McAdams brought to it?

Sebastián Lelio: I followed my intuition that the collision of Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams was going to be beautiful to see and generate great sparks. In a certain way, I saw Ronit and Esti as the same person divided into two. One escaped and became free, the other stayed and embraced the religion, but both paid a big price.

Q: What do you hope the audiences will feel whilst watching DISOBEDIENCE?

Sebastián Lelio: DISOBEDIENCE is a very intense journey. The characters are going through a certain turmoil that defines the film and makes it oscillate between different tones. The story explores the whole emotional spectrum of Ronit, Esti, and Dovid. They feel very real, very close. You feel like you are sitting at the dining tables and lying in those beds with the characters; Even though we might not know much about the very secretive world of London Jewish Orthodoxy, the film generates a very intimate, strangely familiar feeling.

Q: Why do you think it's an important story to tell at this time?

Sebastián Lelio: DISOBEDIENCE is a story about confused human beings interacting and trying to do the best they can against a background of fixed conceptions. This is a story about characters that are willing to change and evolve, but to do so they have to go through very rigid structures and that confrontation resonates with what we're going through nowadays as a human society all over the world, where the old paradigms seem to be either obsolete or insufficient. I always felt that there was certain urgency in bringing DISOBEDIENCE to life.


Q: What attracted you to this project?

Rachel Weisz: I was looking for material to develop, as well as produce and act in. Disobedience was one of the first projects I found; it's an incredible story, with two great female leads. What really grabbed me about the novel was the theme of transgression in the modern world where there is almost nothing taboo anymore. The term disobedience means very little unless you find the right community to set it in, like the small Orthodox Jewish community in North London. If you find a story of transgression within an ordered old-fashioned society, I think you have a great universal drama that anyone can relate to.

What was Ronit's relationship like with her father?

Rachel Weisz: Ronit is living with her guilt that she has erased her father from her own life after he disowned her. When she left, she chose not to get in contact with him. There is this regret of being too late to forgive each other. To find forgiveness and peace with a parent before they die is incredibly important to carry on with your life. A part of her story is about how you can leave where you’re from, but you can't really leave it behind; you carry it with you wherever you go. You think you are free-living your life, but you need to find closure on certain things. For Ronit not to be contacted about her father's illness, she's denied closure to come and say goodbye which is very painful.

Q: What is Ronit's relationship with Judaism?

Rachel Weisz: I see Ronit as a teenager who questioned the religious laws; her free liberal thinking is immensely dangerous to the tiny closed community. Why should women get married and wear a wig? Why can't she drive on a Saturday? There are so many rules and laws and Ronit questioned them hard and was seen as a rebel and anti-authoritarian as a result.

Q: What attracted you to the project when you first read the script?

Rachel McAdams: I fell in love with the script when I read it. It was beautifully written and unique, and the opportunity to work with Rachel Weisz was hard to turn down. I loved how sparse and yet complicated the story was. There were so many layers yet it was really respectful of the audience's intelligence and didn't force information on them. It's very rare to have a film with three leads where each has their own unique story arc from one another and together they make a really beautiful family.

Q: Can you give us a bit of background on Esti and her relationship with her husband?

Rachel McAdams: Dovid and Esti have a loving relationship built on deep friendship and full of respect. When Ronit left so suddenly, Esti was destroyed and Dovid was there to pick her up, so she's very grateful to him for saving her life in some ways, but she might still be with him out of certain obligation and gratitude. She is living a life she thinks is good enough by ignoring her sexuality and making the choice to be with Dovid. Esti is a real believer in Judaism and being a good Jewish wife and member of the community, it's a belief that lives deep inside her. So to have her sexuality deemed not acceptable in her community creates an inner struggle for her. How can she still honor the life she loves and the people she loves? For the most part, she believes she is happy but doesn't realize she's cut off this major part of herself.

Q: What is it like for Esti when Ronit returns to the community?

Rachel McAdams: It's difficult for Esti to have Ronit return and not be able to openly comfort her, she is very self-conscious about how she acts and respectful of Dovid as they are the pillars of the community. She also feels the real sting that she left, not just her but Dovid as well. They were a great group of friends that only had each other and when Ronit left, it was a real betrayal to both of them. But somewhere deep inside, Esti knew that things needed to change, which is why she gets the message to Ronit that her father has passed; her return is the catalyst for Esti to revaluate her choices.

Q: What do you hope audiences will take away from watching this film?

Rachel McAdams: The film explores the theme of personal freedom and what it means to follow your own path, so it is a story that has an incredible amount of hope in it. It's a great love story, but not just of one kind of love; love for God, love for friendship and romantic love. I have never seen a story that offers a glimpse into this world that goes this deep and looks into sexuality in this way. It's a story that needs to be told.

Q: What attracted you to the script when you first read it?

Alessandro Nivola: What attracted me to the script was the trio of friends that all mean well and yet somehow create a messy situation despite their affection for each other. It's a totally human situation that is unavoidable and painful.

Q: What was your initial reaction to reading the script?

Alessandro Nivola: I loved Sebastián's Gloria so I already knew how talented he was and became immediately curious to know more about his work. When I read the outline of the script, I thought Dovid would be a secondary character supporting the heart of the story, so I was surprised when he had more capacity and his story was integral to the overarching narrative. The script presented a problem that pits belief and religion against modernity and changing times and questions how to reconcile those two things. Dovid represented someone who had committed his life to his religion in a very intense and profound way and has to reconcile those beliefs against his sense of goodness and his love for the people he is closest too. It really explored that dilemma for him in a detailed, complex and beautiful way.

Q: Can you elaborate on Dovid's close relationship to Ronit's father?

Alessandro Nivola: At a young age, he saw a quality and a connection with God in Dovid which could help bind the community together in a way that he had, so he became his pupil. Dovid's adolescence would have been spent with this man, which is how he came to be so close to Ronit and her best friend Esti, who he might not have known otherwise because young men and women are kept quite separate in the Orthodox world. After Ronit left, he became adopted by him as his only child so the situation is difficult for everyone. The man was essentially his father. His death at the beginning of the script really sparks of this confusing situation where she comes back to mourn him and I'm there mourning him like a father.

Q: Can you describe the relationship between Dovid and Esti?

Alessandro Nivola: I love the way that Dovid and Esti's relationship is written because it's a good marriage and they have a deep respect for one another. What is wrong with their marriage is so subtle and yet essential; she is a lesbian. There is every reason why Dovid and Esti could have gone all those years thinking their marriage was worth preserving, yet in the end, she has to be who she is and love the way she is naturally inclined to love.

Q: What do you hope audiences will take away from watching the film?

Alessandro Nivola: Life is always presenting you with situations that aren't easily resolved. So ideally people will walk away without easy answers; the best stories are the ones that aren't packed. Hopefully, people will walk away having had their opinions and preconceptions about certain life challenged.

Disobedience Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Sebastián Lelio

Writing Credits

Sebastián Lelio and Rebecca Lenkiewicz (Screenplay)

Naomi Alderman (Based on the novel by)


Rachel Weisz

Rachel McAdams

Alessandro Nivola

Anton Lesser

Allan Corduner

Bernice Stegers

Nicholas Woodeson

Liza Sadovy

David Fleeshman

Clara Francis

Mark Stobbart

Music by

Matthew Herbert

Cinematography by

Danny Cohen

Genres: Drama, Romance

Countries: Ireland, United Kingdom, United States

Disobedience Official Trailer

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