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Kosher Gafilte-Film

Synopsis for a 50 minute Documentary Film

   

"Kosher Gafilte-Film" is a film about the ultra orthodox Israeli Jews, but they themselves will never see the film because an orthodox Jew doesn't go to the movies and doesn't own a video, a TV or a DVD. For many years it was prohibited for the ultra orthodox Jews to be filmed or photographed or to express themselves freely in any media. Since the slow infiltration of computers into their homes their children have been more and more exposed to secular values. Today there is a wave of demand for "Kosher" films.  The compact disc industry for the orthodox Jewish community started about five years ago as a response to these needs, and at the same time as a response to the need to avoid watching secular television and secular video films.

 

The film "Kosher Gafilte-Film" follows the preparation of an Orthodox Jewish film.  The producer and director of the film is Shalom Isenbach. Shalom comes from a famous Jewish Orthodox family living in the Mea Sharim neighborhood of Jerusalem (The Mecca of Orthodox Jewry). Shalom is a typical example of a widespread phenomenon in the orthodox Jewish community: he left his Yeshiva at a young age and enjoyed the secular pleasures, especially the free sex.  He says that when he was a boy he didn't know what the feminine genitals looked like and his curiosity almost drove him crazy.  After a few years he settled down, got married and started getting back to his Jewish Orthodox roots, not out of religious motives but because he recognized the value of this social structure for building a family and raising kids. 

 

The documentary film follows the process of producing a film named "Mama, when are you coming back?" which comically tells the story of a young Chasidic father whose wife just gave birth, in Mazal Tov, to their fifth thriving and kicking child. The (unseen) wife went with the newborn to a rest house and left the helpless father with the remaining four youngsters. The film humorously portrays the father's inability to run the house; he has difficulties in cooking, doing the laundry and changing diapers. Only then does he learn to appreciate his wife's roll. 

 

No doubt that the “making of” a Chasidic film is a colorful and juicy drama. But there is a more serious aspect to this film; "Kosher Gafilte-Film" will subtly expose a grave transformation that is taking place in the Jewish Orthodox world today. The great walls of strict tradition are slowly collapsing to the sound of the new horns of the media. The great waves of Internet and mass media are shaking this very well preserved and guarded society. There are many signs of the revolution to come. The new film industry is only one. Newspapers and magazines are much more promiscuous and allow for more open dialog and criticism. Advertising in the Orthodox world became much more provocative and wild than it used to be. The Orthodox audience is expecting to be entertained by semi-Rock stars like in the secular world.  The Rabbinical authorities find it more and more difficult to limit the new freedom of speech. It is as if they have  confined a spring for many years and suddenly it bursts out with multiple powers.

 

 

 

Kosher Gafilte-Film

Treatment for a 50 minute Documentary Film

  

The film "Kosher Gafilte-Film" follows the preparation of an Orthodox Jewish film.  The producer and director of the film is Shalom Isenbach. He has already produced 57 films and his magazine "Chasidishkite" is celebrating its 44th issue. Shalom comes from a famous Jewish Ultra-Orthodox family living in the Mea Sharim neighborhood of Jerusalem (The Mecca of Orthodox Jewry).

 

The documentary film follows the process of producing a film named "Mama, when are you coming back?" which tells the humorous story of a young Chasidic father whose wife just gave birth, in Mazel-Tov, to their fifth thriving and kicking child. The (unseen) wife went with the newborn to a rest house and left the helpless father with the remaining four youngsters. The film comically portrays the father's inability to run the house; he has difficulties cooking, doing the laundry and changing diapers. Only then does he learn to appreciate his wife's roll in the house. 

 

The film "Kosher Gafilte-Film" starts with a scene of an editorial staff meeting.  Shalom meets Izo Leibovitch, his co-scriptwriter and partner.  In this meeting it becomes evident that not "everything goes" - there are many cultural "booby traps", secret codes, prohibitions concerning the content of the film.  It is forbidden to show or even to hear a woman.  It is forbidden to slander rabbis or even make jokes about them.  It is forbidden to introduce rock music, to discuss sex issues, to discuss conflicts inside the Orthodox Jewish community. 

 

From the editorial meeting Shalom hurries to his parents' house in Jerusalem.  His mother, 60, receives him warmly.  She says to the film crew "Shit", a slang word, which she doesn't even understand, giggling like a shy young girl.  She shows the camera her television and video sets her son bought her in order that she could watch his films.  This is probably the only TV set in the neighborhood.  The proud mother watched each of her son's films more than 100 times. Shalom tells his mother that he is living in an orthodox Jewish town and hides the fact that he's living in Tel Aviv in a secular neighborhood.  He says that his mother almost never left Jerusalem and never saw the sea.  He's her youngest son and he has nine brothers and three sisters.

 

During the film the viewers are exposed to a mosaic of ultra orthodox characters ("Tipus" in Yiddish) who are rarely seen on the screen. We are exposed to a culture that is fading away in the secular world, a traditional community in which each "Tipus" has his place, his nickname and roll in the congregation.

 

Itzik (35) is a "Tipus". He is casting for Shalom, and the camera follows him looking for child actors for the new film. He still lives with his eccentric mother.  She's chanting blessings and intervenes in her son's work. Itzik is shortsighted and that's why it is hard for him to get a "Shiduch" (a match making). He goes to Tzion, an ex- master- sergeant in the Israeli army, Tzion is a heavy built cool person.  His son, Shimon is very suitable for the casting and he's willing to act, but Tzion has his doubts: maybe it will make Shimon fail in school, maybe it will make him arrogant, maybe it will prevent him from going to high Yeshiva, Maybe in the future it will make it harder for him to get a good "Shiduch" (The boy is hardly 12 years old).  Shalom tells Tzion: "I was born in an Ultra- Orthodox neighborhood and I know how hard it is to grow up isolated from the world.  You were born in the secular world and have been to the army and it is hard for you to understand what I say.  I think the best is to let your child taste all the worlds and decide for himself".

 

The next visit is to the house of Avi, a born ultra-Orthodox who believes in openness to the modern world.  He left his ultra-Orthodox neighborhood and went to live in a secular area.  He's happy to let his son participate in the film and he himself is also participating in films.

 

The next day Shalom is busy casting. He meets orthodox Jewish actors like "Deprived Danny", who became a star in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods. "Dave the Mocker" arrives late, as usual, like a typical "Star", and gets the role of the older son. Izo, the scriptwriter, organizes the first reading rehearsal. In his previous secular life he was a famous scriptwriter but now his rabbi told him that making movies is "not encouraged".  In the ultra-Orthodox code that means NO, so Izo is making films without enthusiasm.  His good friend made a film about the ultra-Orthodox world and Izo is angry with him because he appeared in the film with his wife and this is considered immoral in Izo's eyes.

 

In order to cut expenses, an Orthodox Jewish film is made in 3 to 4 intensive shooting days.  The “making of” a Chasidic film is a colorful and juicy drama. Throughout the filming, there are many comic situations, which indicate the sacred codes of the orthodox Jewish community. The crew developed a very intimate family-like sense of humor. They love to make practical jokes. Ron the nonreligious cameraman and Miko the soundman say that an ultra-Orthodox film crew is much more intimate and professional than a secular film crew.  On the other hand they work harder and do more in two days than a secular film crew does in a week.

 

Shalom edits the film in Jerusalem with another "Tipus" - "Albino Benny"Benny is an eccentric Chasid who collects empty cans of Pepsi-Cola.  The editing room is full of such empty cans.  Since most of the scenes are filmed only once the editing is very simple and quick. Benny finds a glimpse of a shadow of a woman, and our camera follows the process of erasing her image and the erasing of the sound of another woman shouting in the background.

 

When the film is finished Shalom signs a contract with Rinsk the distributor (also a "Tipus"). The film is distributed in 400 stores and supermarkets in the Orthodox neighborhoods.

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