On Wednesday (September 19) at the Curzon Cinema the Eastbourne Film Society inaugurates its 69th season with a screening of the film Menashe. This splendidly warm-hearted movie is set in New York and tells a story about a widower (that’s Menashe played by Menashe Lustig) and his schoolboy son, Rieven (Ruben Niborski). It’s a tale both touching and comic since Menashe, so well-meaning but not the most competent of men, has to fight with his brother-in-law and others for the right to bring up the boy himself.
Menashe has been described as giving a rare insight into orthodox Jewish culture and, indeed, the aim of the film’s debutant director and co-writer, Joshua Z. Weinstein, was to bring to the screen a wholly authentic portrait of New York’s Hasidic Jewish community. Since Hasidic Jews have a widespread distrust of cinema, Weinstein had to overcome resistance to make this film, a work which, when eventually acclaimed at the Sundance Film Festival, won over many doubters. Indeed, its authenticity extends both to the fact that the film in many ways echoes the real-life experiences of Menashe Lustig himself and to Weinstein’s decision to use the Yiddish language thereby making this a subtitled work.
In consequence Menashe is a film that convincingly reveals a way of life unfamiliar to many of us while also telling a story about a loving father and his son that is universal in its appeal. That is why a tale that contains much humour is also able to touch our hearts. As ever the screenings next Wednesday will be open to the public.