Following Keep Not Silent-Orthodykes at the 15th Annual New York Jewish Film Festival Thursday was the much less successful Pork and Milk. This was the New York premiere of French film-maker Valérie Mréjen's very straight-forward 2004 documentary lets ten Israelis who had left the confines of ultra-Orthodox Judaism for the "secular" world tell their stories, just talking to the camera.
But no one ever really says what "secular" means here. The subtitles used the word, publicity for the film uses it, but I don't think what they are talking about is a totally non-religious life. Rather, I got the impression that at least to the ultra-Orthodox everyone outside of their branch of Judaism is "secular," regardless of how observant they remain. "Secular" may just be the closest translation to a Hebrew word they are using, but I really don't know.
That was just one of the problems of this film. The ten stories varied widely in length--a couple of them were very brief. The whole thing was only 52 minutes. A lot of time was spent on one man who became a chef, as he slowly struggled, sometimes silently, to relate his experiences. He had run away (to where? he never said, other than that it was still fairly close to his home) at 14½. He did explain how he supported himself, but a lot of other details were omitted. He said that later two of his sisters followed him and were living with him, but nothing else of them was mentioned.
And that was the person in the film with the most screen time. The others' stories were even sketchier. There were only two women. One spoke of joining the Israeli army, and the isolation she felt from the other soldiers, who had all kinds of misconceptions of ultra-Orthodox life. One man was shown donning his old cantor garments, and beautifully singing a prayer--but there was no explanation of why he did that. Was it just to show what he used to do, or was it something he still did? The film didn't say.
I really didn't learn a whole lot from the film. I already knew what they were running from, but found out little of what they had hoped to find. The experiences they related were mostly quite predictable--dating problems, etc.
I wouldn't waste my time on this one.
9 hours ago