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Women of Virtue

Etel, a 9-year-old girl who lives in the Hassidic community in Paris, gets her period for the first time. Myriam, her mother, finally looks at her as if she were a woman. Etel is blessed, until she finds out that in her religion, women are considered impure when they have their period.

  • Lou Bennett
    Key Cast
    "Etel"
  • Zineb Triki
    Key Cast
    "Myriam"
    The bureau (Le bureau des légendes)
  • Carla Besnaïnou
    Key Cast
    "Shaïna"
  • Olivia Côte
    Key Cast
    "Dr Adler"
    In safe hands (Pupille)
  • Evgenia Alexandrova
    Photographer
    Mi iubita mon amour
  • Stéphanie Halfon
    Director
  • Stéphanie Halfon
    Writer
  • Anne Berjon
    Producer
  • Caroline Adrian
    Producer
    Conviction (une intime conviction), The Names of Love (Le nom des gens)
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    Les Vertueuses
  • Project Type:
    Short
  • Genres:
    Dramedy, coming of age
  • Runtime:
    29 minutes 57 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    September 30, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    104,000 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
    France
  • Country of Filming:
    France
  • Language:
    French
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
    1.85:1
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    Yes
  • Student Project:
    No
Distribution Information
  • Eroïn Films
    Distributor
    Country: Worldwide
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Stéphanie Halfon

Stéphanie was born and raised in Rome in a traditionalist Sephardic family. She then studied in Paris, where she began a career in film production: in charge of development, she supports screenwriters and directors in the writing of their feature films. After a first self-produced film purchased by OCS, Women of Virtue (Les Vertueuses) is her first produced short film and draws on her experience in the Parisian Hassidic community.

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Director Statement

For a long time, I saw my mother as the absolute quintessential woman. An ethereal icon. When it was my turn to become a woman, I was very disappointed to find that I was not magically receiving her exceptional gifts. To become a woman, therefore, I had to kill the ideal set up by my mother. I had to accept that my mother was not divine in order to allow myself to be fallible.

Judaism presents very codified norms on femininity, particularly related to menstruation. When women have their period, they are considered impure, because it means in each cycle that they have failed to give birth; they did not use their great power.
By having her first period, Etel discovers both her potential as a "mother-in-the-making", and at the same time her potential as an "impure woman". This eternal dichotomy continues to characterize women, in Judaism and everywhere else.

Hence, I wanted to make a universal film about women, and certainly not point the finger at a community. Etel’s mother and the gynecologist are two characters that span the entire spectrum of femininity. What unites them is the consciousness of the fault.
The fault of being a woman. That is the fault of not doing well enough. Of not being a good enough mother. Of not being a mother at all. Of not being a good daughter. Everywhere, guilty women who give birth to guilty women. This makes the mother-daughter relationship a fascinating and terrible bond, made up of infinite love and mutual guilt.
I wanted to write a declaration of love at this bond.

To shoot the film, I got very close to the Loubavitch community in Paris, which inspired my characters. I had rabbis reread the script, as well as some religious women, and I worked closely with a balanite (woman working in the mikveh) who ensured the authenticity of the film. The locations were loaned by members of the community, as well as many costumes and decorative items. In short, the film was built at every step in collaboration with the people it represented, and has shown them unfailing respect. In fact, for the sake of respect, the name of God is never mentioned in this film, which can be considered Kosher.
Stéphanie Halfon