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Unorthodox (2020)Unorthodox (2020)

This Netflix mini-series was released at the height of the COVID-19 crisis (March 26, 2020), and immediately gained a lot of traction. The four episodes are loosely based on the real life story of Deborah Feldman, as told in her memoir Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots (2012). The one-hour episodes tell the story of a nineteen-year-old woman named Esty Shapiro. When pregnant and very unhappy in her arranged marriage in her ultra-orthodox Hasidic community in Brooklyn, Esty runs away to Berlin, where she tries to connect with her estranged mother Leah (who also left the Hasidic community years earlier). Learning to live a secular life is a challenge when you know absolutely nothing about the "outside" world (like wearing blue jeans). Making matters worse, her husband Yanky back in Brooklyn is commanded by his rabbi to go to Berlin and "bring that girl back." The mini-series has the distinction of being the first Netflix movie to be (mainly) in Yiddish. For two other movies about the Hasidic community in Brooklyn, see my reviews of Menashe (2017), which tells the story of a lovable but hapless grocer who, against tradition, tries to keep custody of his son after his wife dies; and then One of Us (2017). The latter movie is a real life documentary about three people who tried to leave their Hasidic community and were hounded, harassed, and tracked down for doing so.

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