Some fact type things that should be noted:
Cert: 15 Run time: 84 mins (approx.)
This is an American documentary film describing the lives of Orthodox and Hasidic gay and lesbian Jews. It’s won several awards including Best Documentary at the 2001 Chicago International Film Festival.
This documentary starts off with the somewhat daunting quote:
“A MAN WHO LIES WITH A MAN AS ONE LIES WITH A WOMAN, THEY HAVE BOTH DONE AN ABOMINATION; THEY SHALL BE PUT TO DEATH, THEIR BLOOD IS ON THEM” (LEVITICUS 20:13)
Just reading this was enough to send shivers down my spine and it didn’t leave me hopeful for a happy ending.
Large chunks of the documentary are stories from real people who, because of their situation, are viewed only as silhouettes. This immediately brings connotations of identity-less and hidden people to mind. Yes, it’s there for a functional, practical purpose but I can’t help thinking that it, sadly, portrays more than just that and that it does, worryingly, show how they are pushed to the corners of society.
Throughout the documentary traditional Jewish music plays and we see scenes from Israel depicting Jewish life.
There are topics that run during this film from gay men who have married women to hide their sexuality, to “treatments” used to stop homosexuality to lesbian Jews reflecting upon their lifestyle and their ties to religion.
What strikes me most about this piece is that the triumphs and the tribulations are shown in equal amounts. I had assumed that it would focus on the suffering of gay and lesbian Jews but it does offer elements of that happy ending that I craved.
One of the main arguments against homosexual Jews is the reading of the Torah. Some people claim that you cannot be a gay Jew because it will affect the way you read the Torah because you are not following its teachings. This was, however, counter acted by a Rabbi who agreed, after some consideration and discussion, that both heterosexuality and homosexuality were controlled by “urges” and that there are no reasons for these urges but that they are fundamentally programmed into us and that we cannot control them but that they are ok.
What I found particularly touching was when the camera focused on a cut out from a magazine of Ellen Degeneres and her then girlfriend on the wall of a Jewish lesbian couple. I found this moving because this is something that I don’t have to think twice about. I can openly look up lesbian couples and talk about them to my friends. Just recently I was with a friend and we were looking up pictures from Ellen and Portia’s wedding. But for those women doing such things might not have always been so acceptable. And I find that hard to deal with. Granted, at no point did they say that they had found looking up pictures of Ellen difficult to do but I couldn’t help but think that I take little things like that for granted too often and there are people who would die (probably literally) for the kind of lifestyle that I am blessed to lead.
What I found most difficult about this documentary was the religious aspect. As an atheist lesbian I don’t have to lead my life within the constraints of a religion but for those who do it can be awful. People marry for “convenience” and stay in these marriages because there is the fear that their children will be taken away from them and they will be shunned by their family.
However, there are a lot of Jewish communities and families who support homosexuality and believe that you can be a Jew regardless of who you love. This is important as it shows that religion can be interpreted in many ways and that there are as many ways to be religious are there are to be gay. You don’t have to follow a set number of guidelines to be religious as it is important to different people in entirely different ways.
All in all, a very moving documentary which is definitely worthy of its awards.
Later this week I shall be reviewing Lost and Delirious so keep an eye out for that!