By Aaron Zaretsky
Israeli writer and director, Michael Aviad’s feature film Working Woman is very relevant in today’s industry regarding current issues of sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace. Orna (Liron Ben-Shlush) is a married woman with three children.
She obtains an assistant job at a real-estate development firm to keep her family above water as her husband, Ofer (Oshri Cohen), is an owner and chef of a struggling restaurant. Orna has no previous experience in real estate, but was hired by her boss Benny (Menashe Noy) who is also married, because he is attracted to her and desires her. At work, Orna is sexually abused and harassed by her boss who methodically lures her in to satisfy his needs. She lets it go but confronts her boss telling him to stop.
© TIFF Trailers | YouTube
After acquiring clients, Benny promotes Orna to be sales manager. Benny’s decision enables him to spend more working hours with Orna. When both are alone in a hotel room, Benny goes too far. Perplexed, Orna contemplates what to do. Does she submit to Benny, overlooking her feelings needing the money to support her family? Does she tell her husband to have him resolve the situation? Does she notify the authorities risking her future, reputation, and her family’s future because she might not have suitable evidence that her boss is sexually abusive?
The sexual abuse and harassment in the film is centered on old gender stereotypes in the workplace: a male executive hires a female assistant not based weather she is a qualified candidate, but because he desires her, then uses his power to “have his way” with her. This scenario is applicable to other positions, for example, a male producer hires an actress not based on talent but attractiveness. Sadly, this scenario currently exists which is why this film has relevance, especially to anyone that currently is or has been sexually abused or harassed.
Watch the Q&A with the Cast and Crew of Working Woman here:
© TIFF Talks | YouTube
Ben-Shlush, Cohen, and Noy deliver dramatic and authentic performances making their character portrayals relatable. For those who have, or currently experience, a similar situation like Orna’s, the screenplay by Michal Aviad, Sharon Azulay Eyal, and Michal Vinik, provides Working Woman with a clever way of how it can be resolved.
*Editor’s Note: Working Woman as screened at the Toronto International Film Festival ‘18.