Ultra-orthodox Jews, the Haredim, are a rapidly-growing theme in mainstream film portrayals, particularly in Israeli and international (mini)-series such as Unorthodox and Shtisel. The large number of Haredi protagonists on screens in secular cultures has coincided with the flourishing of a sectarian, ultra-orthodox Jewish filmmaking industry in Israel since the early 2000s. Female Haredi filmmakers in particular are making their mark on a religious film and cinema scene that is undergoing increasing professionalisation. The project “Jewish Ultra-Orthodoxy and Film” aims to analyse the phenomenon of ultra-orthodox Jewish cinema in Israel through the lens of film and media studies as well as from a theological perspective.
Fundamentalist, monotheistic movements are growing across the globe at the beginning of the 21st century, from free evangelical churches in the USA, Latin America and Africa and radical Islamist trends in the Near and Middle East and Europe to extremist Jewish groups in Israel, the USA and Western Europe. With approximately two million members, the ultra-orthodox and ‘God-fearing’ Haredim are the fastest-growing population within Judaism. The Haredim are at odds with contemporary, secular notions of democracy, freedom of opinion, liberalism, gender equality and children’s rights in their reading of Judaism. They interpret Jewish law, the halakha, more strictly than other Jewish denominations and attempt to distance themselves from ‘non-Jewish culture’. Haredi religious leaders (rabbis) traditionally reject the medium of film and cinema as ‘secular’, ‘un-Jewish’ and a ‘danger to the moral constitution’ of their own society. They believe that film does not comply with the religious values of purity (or chastity), separation of the sexes, prohibition of coarse language and malicious gossip as well as prohibition of open criticism of one’s own society. With new technologies developing, the spread of the internet and diversification within Haredi society, however, some sections of the community are breaking with the rabbinic conventions that prohibit viewing and making films. As the number of Haredi filmgoers in Israel and the USA has grown steadily since the early 2000s, so has the number of female Haredi filmmakers. A separate, Haredi Jewish form of cinema has emerged in the past few decades, adhering strictly to the pillars of ultra-orthodox Judaism: separation of the sexes, prohibition of coarse language, prohibition of depictions of sex and violence and prohibition of direct criticism of the Haredi way of life and religious leaders. The Haredi men’s film segment was banned in Israel by rabbis there in 2010 and only exists for now in North America. However, Haredi women’s cinema, in which women make films for women and girls, and men are not (officially) part of the production process or viewing public, has thrived since then. Israeli-Haredi filmmakers such as Dina Perlstein, Tali Avrahami, Zilah Schneider and Rama Burszteyn seek ways to push the boundaries of what they can show, say and criticise on the screen via the genre of melodrama. An internationally unique phenomenon, Haredi women’s films express a ‘quiet feminism’ within repressive Haredi society despite the limits placed upon them with regard to dramaturgy and content. The project “Haredi Cinema: The Only Real ‘Jewish Film’?” aims to analyse the production conditions and reception environment of Haredi cinema.
Ultra-Orthodoxy and Film Filmography (tbc)
Я — Иван, ты — Абрам. FR/BLR 1993, Yoland Soberman, 105 minutes
Arranged. USA 2007, Diane Crespo, Stefan Schaefer, 92 minutes
Der Dibuk. PL 1937, Michal Waszynski, 125 minutes
Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam. D 1920, Paul Wegener, 87 minutes
Disobedience. UK/IRL/USA 2017, Sebastián Lelio, 114 minutes
Driver. IL 2017, Yehonatan Indursky, 92 minutes
Félix et Meira. CAN 2014, Maxime Giroux, 105 minutes
Fiddler on the Roof. USA 1971, Norman Jewison, 179 minutes
Jud Süss. D 1940, Veit Harlan, 98 minutes
HaChasan vehaYam, IL 2010, Yehonatan Indursky, 25 minutes.
HaMaschgichim. IL 2012, Meni Yaish, 102 minutes
Yentl. USA 1983, Barbra Streisand, 133 minutes
Kaddosh. IL/ FRA 1999, Amos Gitai, 116 minutes
Kuni Lemel beTel Aviv. IL 1977, Joel Silberg, 94 minutes
Kuni Lemel beKahir. IL 1983, Joel Silberg, 90 minutes
Les Aventures de Rabbi Jacob. FR 1973, Gérard Oury, 95 minutes
Menashe, USA 2017, Joshua Z. Weinstein, 81 minutes.
Merchak Negiah. IL 2006/07, Arutz 2, 1 season/8 episodes
Shney Kuni Lemel. IL 1966, Israel Becker, 120 minutes
Shtisel. IL 2013–2020, Yes-Oh, KAN 11, 3 seasons/33 episodes
The Chosen. USA 1981, Jeremy Kagan, 108 minutes
The Frisco Kid. USA 1979, Robert Aldrich, 119 minutes
The Secrets. IL 2007, Avi Nesher, 120 minutes
The Vigil. USA 2019, Keith Thomas, 89 minutes
The Yankels. USA 2009, David R. Brooks, 115 minutes
Train de vie. FR/BEL/IL/NL/ROM 1998, Radu Mihăileanu, 103 minutes
Unorthodox. D/USA/IL 2020, Netflix, 1 season/4 episodes
Wolkenbruchs wunderliche Reise in die Arme einer Schickse, SUI, 2018, Michael Steiner, 93 minutes
Die Forschungsgruppe wird vom PostDocNetwork Brandenburg gefördert.