Black Notebooks: Ronit (Cahiers Noirs) Image

Black Notebooks: Ronit (Cahiers Noirs)

By Jordan Bond | May 31, 2023

Black Notebooks: Ronit (Cahiers Noirs) is an intimate documentary, from filmmaker Shlomi Elkabetz, that serves as a love letter to family and filmmaking. The movie follows the experience of the director’s sister, acclaimed actor Ronit, as she navigates life during the filming and release of her final role in a feature film. Years of footage, including behind-the-scenes footage from the film set as well as private footage of the subject at home, are assembled.

I felt like a fly on the wall as the personal story unfolded. The viewer is given a look behind the curtain as the film opens with footage of Elkabetz mustering the courage and strength to bring the acting performance that she desires. It is clear early on that she is struggling with inner turmoil, which is fights on set. The friends and family surrounding her express concern for the lady’s well-being. Other actors in the production sense there are problems that Elkabetz is dealing with while filming, whether that manifests in her forgetting lines or seeming mentally unengaged from a scene. It is revealed through family dialogue that she is indeed suffering from an illness that is holding her back from living as fully as she would like.

“…finishing a feature film while being quite ill.

Black Notebooks: Ronit is a very raw and intimate window into the inner battle the subject faces while filming and living with a life-altering illness. It seems nearly all the private footage was shot by the filmmaker himself. As such, the footage of the actor at home and traveling between filming locations and festivals is very intimate, as only a family member could capture it. Elkabetz is seen as a fighter, full of courage, as she carries on finishing a feature film while being quite ill.

As a standalone documentary film, I’m not sure this is as engaging as Shlomi Elkabetz expects. The footage has been thoughtfully and tastefully compiled with a beautiful soundtrack. However, as a viewer, there were a lot of dots that were never connected. Most audience members, like myself, will be lost trying to piece together what is happening for the first chunk of this narrative. I think because the filmmaker is so close with the source material, his sister, he neglects to provide enough context to those watching to fully appreciate the story he is presenting. The documentary is too introspective throughout, providing little, if any, explanation as we bounce between behind-the-scenes video from the set and the personal footage from home.

Making a film as personal as Black Notebooks: Ronit is incredibly difficult. It is often a more therapeutic process for a filmmaker to produce a project like this than anything else. I heavily suspect this is the case for Elkabetz and this documentary. Some of the very best films are the ones in which the filmmaker is willing to put their deepest thoughts, fears, and dreams up on the screen without holding back. The director succeeds in telling the story of his sister in an unfiltered, brutally honest, and respectful way. But the audience isn’t always there alongside them.

Black Notebooks: Ronit (Cahiers Noirs) (2022)

Directed: Shlomi Elkabetz


Starring: Ronit Elkabetz, Menashe Noy, Simon Abkarian, Sasson Gabay, etc.

Movie score: 6/10

Black Notebooks: Ronit (Cahiers Noirs) Image

"…unfiltered, brutally honest, and respectful..."

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