Unorthodox (working title: Awaken) – an Introduction
Seeing as this is my very first post about Unorthodox (the film formerly known as Awaken) I figured I’d write an intro. Then I’ll move on to sharing my own journey through the world of documentary filmmaking.
Here’s a brief synopsis:
Unorthodox is framed by own story: as a teenager, I left the modern Orthodox Jewish community in which I was raised. After I graduated from high school, I watched as my friends — who, like me, were rebellious — spent a year studying in Israel. When they returned to America one year later, almost all of them had become religiously observant. This year in Israel is a rite of passage for most teenagers brought up in the American Orthodox Jewish community: nearly all high school graduates, both religious and non-religious, embark on this journey of spiritual renewal.
Intent on understanding why my friends had undergone this dramatic religious transformation, I set out, along with fellow filmmaker Nadja Oertelt, to follow a new generation of young Jews as they spent their post-high school year in Israel. Unorthodox follows three teenagers from the New York/New Jersey area as they spend the 2005-2006 year in Israel. In addition, Jake, Chaim and Tzipi document themselves with video diaries, offering an incredibly personal glimpse into their lives.
Through the documentation of this phenomenon, I was forced to confront my own painful decisions and the impact my departure. Unorthodox integrates the subjects’ video diaries, professional documentary footage, and my narration to tell the story of personal change as three young individuals attempt to confront difficult religious and emotional questions. Through several richly layered narratives, the film explores the role of society, family and nations in influencing beliefs, the nature of religious metamorphoses, and the border dividing Orthodoxy and mainstream society. Unorthodox is a film that represents a more universal narrative—the story of anyone who has ever truly confronted her most deeply rooted beliefs.