Last updated: 13 February, 2014

Natalie Portman returns to Jerusalem in director debut – annoys ultra-Orthodox Jews

Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman was back in her native city of Jerusalem on Thursday shooting for her directorial debut, to the annoyance of the local ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

The Hollywood actress, who was born in Jerusalem, is directing a film adaptation of “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” an award-winning 2002 novel by Israel’s best known writer, Amos Oz.

Translated from Hebrew into 28 languages, the story is a heart-wrenching memoir of Oz’s childhood in Jerusalem in the 1940s and 1950s, before and after the creation of the Jewish state.

In the film, Portman, 32, plays the role of his mother, who committed suicide when he was 12 years old.

The shoot, which has seen several of the narrow alleyways of the Nahlaot neighbourhood transformed into a scene from Mandate Palestine, has incurred the wrath of some ultra-Orthodox locals.

Earlier this week, Hebrew graffiti deriding the “foreign invasion” was sprayed on the set, and Israel’s Channel 10 news said residents had complained to the mayor’s office that shooting was taking place near synagogues and asking that those involved be appropriately dressed.

As the shooting took place on an unseasonably hot February morning, Portman could be seen wearing a short-sleeved 1940s-style dress, but there was no sign of any protesters, an AFP correspondent said.

Born June 9, 1981 to an Israeli doctor and his American artist wife, Portman remains close to her Israeli roots.

Portman has taken on tough roles ever since her big-screen debut at the age of 11, when she starred in “The Professional,” the tale of a hitman who becomes her character’s mentor.

In 2011, she won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her role in “Black Swan.”