un orthodox ( movie review )

I love movies. When I was young, I used to watch at least 2 movies per week. They are good especially if you have never read the original book before watching the movie. Nowadays, I rarely find movies which are uplifting, so I turned to social media which is even worse. But when I find Netflix series like un orthodox, it made me forget about this crazy world we are in at least for that hours I was watching the movie.

Un orothodox was based on 2012 series of book called ” The scandalous rejection of my Hasidic roots ” written by Deborah Feldman based on her real life stories. The movie was modified to fit in current time although the real story happened in 1980s. It was about a Jewish girl from Satmar community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn , New York city. Satmar community is an ultra orthodox Jewish community in NYC . Most first generations are holocaust survivor migrated from Hungary and not only they carried the emotional trauma but also passed their trauma to new generations. They became ultra orthodox society with stringent rules and strict ways of life. For example, they did not allow females to carry on any kind of training after certain age and arrange marriage for females as young as 16 or 17 years old. They protect females and at the same time, restrict their personal growth and freedom.

Esther ( Esty) was a 17 year old Yiddish girl who was left by her mother at young age to her grandparents. Her father was an alcoholic and incapable of looking after her. She was raised by her religious grandparents from father side and made to believe that her mother abandoned her. She was groomed properly to become a good wife and good mother since young age. She did not get any formal education after 7 although she was very intelligent and always questioned internally about the belief of family. She was arranged to meet her husband Yanky who was as naive as her to marry at 17. Esty loved music and tried to practice piano with paper keyboard secretly. Later she was given piano lessons by a kind piano teacher who rent her grandparents apartment in exchange for the rent. Her husband never tried to know real Esty as he himself was controlled by his mother , sister and the whole society. He pushed Esty to have a baby since marriage and made her run away eventually to Germany where her birth mother lived.

It was fortunate that Esty met diverse group of musicians from around the world practicing group music at the university in Berlin . She realized her passion in music was immerse although she had been convinced by her community that performing in public by females was immodest. While she was enjoying her new life with her new friends, Yiddish community sent her husband and a schmuck ( his cousin ) to Berlin to force her back to Williamsburg once they knew she was carrying a baby. Both her husband and his cousin arrived just before the time Esty was trying to get scholarship from the university. I have to admit this series is at least movies of the decade as everybody made effort to make every tiny details in the setting similar to real world.

Director, producers, scrip writers and some crew members flew to NYC to see and feel the environment of Satmar community 2 times. They captured a lot of photos and consulted with Yiddish consultant El Rosen who helped directer to find the right setting, right costumes and right people to perform in the movie back in Berlin . Some of the costumes are very expensive and they needed to borrow them from Williamsburg. The director also interviewed a lot of people from Satmar community to know the personal experience of different people. The main character Shira Haas is an enormous actress ( in contrary to her small figure ) and even twitching her facial muscles made me feel her emotions. Other main characters like Amit Rahav ( husband ) and Jeff Wilbusch ( cousin of husband ) were new actors and they played extremely well. Especially, Jeff Wilbusch was a German actor who speaks Yiddish and grew up in Satmar community is kind of amazing .

If I had never watched this movie, I would not have believed there is a Jewish community like that exist in NYC . It is eye opening and able to empathize and understand the reaction of Satmar community towards outsiders. If you want to watch something to uplift you during this pandemic time, I recommend you to watch ” un orthodox “. At least, it will give you something to think about for a few days.

Love

Hnin

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