If you love Jewish TV, you already know Israeli superstar Shira Haas. After making a big splash in “Shtisel,” and then, “Unorthodox” — the 2020 miniseries about a young woman who leaves her Hasidic community in Brooklyn — Haas has taken on a new role: playing 17-year-old Vika in Ruthy Pribar’s new Israeli film “Asia,” which premiered in the U.S. last week.
In the film, Vika and her mother, Asia (Alena Yiv), grapple with Vika’s ALS, a degenerative muscle disease that causes her health to deteriorate as the movie progresses. Asia, a young and somewhat irresponsible mother prone to partying when she is off work as a nurse, is forced to take on a more maternal role as Vika becomes more ill.
The film garnered critical acclaim in Israel, where it won eight Ophir Awards — considered Israel’s equivalent of the Academy Awards — including Best Picture, Best Leading Actress and Best Supporting actress. Haas also won Best Actress for the film in the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. Her performance is flawless and heart-wrenching and, even though Haas is 26 IRL, you’d immediately believe she was a teenager. (Plus, her resemblance to Yiv is uncanny.)
We chatted with Haas about the film’s success, as well as the unlikely international phenomenon that is “Shtisel” and how that show shaped her. With heartwarming humility, she also opened up about how her own childhood experience with cancer informed her acting in “Asia.” Check out our conversation below.
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