Family Issues, Jewish, Social Issues
Documentary, Remembering Brit Withey
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“I was a child singer, and then I was a porno kid.” So Menahem Lang introduces himself at the beginning of French director Yolande Zauberman’s searing, grittily shot documentary about generations of sexual abuse in a sect of ultra-Orthodox Jews known as the Haredim. What follows is his journey, after a long absence, into the heart of Bnei Brak, their home base on the outskirts of Tel Aviv: Whether he’s in search of answers or apologies, reconciliation or vengeance, even he’s not sure.
As a boy, Lang was a renowned performer of liturgical chants; as a man, he has had some success as a film actor—and it shows in his flair for the dramatic as he returns to the scene of the crimes by his brethren. Nearing his old synagogue, he intones: “There I was circumcised. There I got curls. There I had my bar mitzvah. There I got married. There I got divorced. There I was raped.” But his anguish is no act, and neither is his deep love for his community, even now. As he reacquaints himself with its members and hears their own tales of victimization—and, sometimes, confessions; as he confronts his brothers and parents; and as he takes part in rituals he hasn’t participated in for years, he begins to come to terms with his past—and with who he is despite and because of it. Closure? No. Progress? Perhaps.
From a semi-improvised script by Israel’s Yaron Shani comes a forceful examination of toxic masculinity in the form of veteran cop Rashi, who sees himself as a force for good. But as he faces assault charges at work and fomenting rebellion at home, he’s bound to begin questioning his own authority.
This unsparing black-and-white Czech period drama follows an unnamed boy as he wanders aimlessly across the countryside at the bloody close of World War II. In his fight to survive, he is both witness to and victim of increasingly savage acts at the hands of villagers and soldiers alike.
Digging through the vast collection of his father’s home videos, filmmaker Sasha Joseph Neulinger enlists his family to help him retell the story of childhood abuse that tore them apart—and to reveal the even darker secret at its core—in this devastating but ultimately hopeful documentary.