+ SAN FRAN
<< NEW >>
+ SAN FRAN
and A Baptist Will Do Anything for Tickets!"
a sign spotted outside the Castro Theater (for the sold-out Premiere of
Trembling at the Closing Night of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
- hundreds turned away)
Last time I wrote, we were about to have a major feature published in
the weekend magazine of Yediot Achronot, the most widely read publication
in Israel (75% of the country). And we were awaiting our Jerusalem Film
Festival Premiere. The Jerusalem screening was not volatile as we feared
but surprisingly full of love (and tears). One-third of the audience was
Orthodox. Rabbis, teachers, rebbetzins, scholars all came and the intensity
in the room was palpable. Many were turned away as the show sold-out.
The film was the buzz across the country. The Deputy Mayor of Tzfat, one
of the four holy cities, where the Kabbalah was born, called the Festival
Director to say that he has seven yeshiva students who wanted to see the
film and how could he arrange a screening. A married gay ultra-Orthodox
friend of mine (yes, married to a woman) told me that when he was praying
on Shabbat afternoon in his shtiebel [synagogue], he heard men arguing
and the word "homosexuality" being tossed around. The news of
the article spread fast, and this group could not believe that there were
such things as haredi [ultra-Orthodox]homosexuals. My friend secretly
After the screening, we had a lively panel with Rabbi Steve Greenberg
and David, and then a cocktail celebration with friends, film colleagues,
and supporters outside the Cinematheque which is on a stunning hillside
beneath Mt. Zion. It was one of those rare Israeli moments where gay and
straight, secular and religious, old and young, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem,
Jew and non-Jew all mixed together in the cradle of history (over kosher
food). When a group of men gathered towards Sunset, and faced the walls
of the Old City to pray Mincha (the afternoon prayer), it felt like we
truly gave thanks for the day.
An Orthodox woman approached me in front of the Cinematheque a few days
later. She studied me and questioned, "I know your face. Why? Oh
yes, you were in the paper." Then she leaned in closer away from
her religious friends. "Can you help me cure my gay son?" I
took her number. She emailed this letter later,
I hope that you still remember me - we met at the cinemateque in Jerusalem
last week, when following a spontaneous impulse I approached you with
my son's problem . As I told you, I am at a stage were I conduct, what
I call "a crusade to rescue my son" from the homosexuality.
I feel that it is my duty and responsibility as a mother to try everything,
everybody and everyway to save him. I know that you may not be the right
person to turn to, because you might be biased - but somehow I felt G-d's
hand in guiding me to that place at that specific time to meet you. Speaking
to you, you made such a positive impression on me, of being such a sensitive
and understanding person, who honestly does care about the sorrow of the
other's. Therefore I trust that you will try to be objective and will
try to help me to help my son... There are two issues which I am very
much concerned with: 1. Could you recommend to me a person/persons (rabbis,
therapists or anybody carismatic) who might be suitable to try to save
my son ? 2. I would be very interested to know how other religious parents
did cope with this painful matter? I did not have yet, the chance to see
your film, but I have already visited your website and I was very impressed
by the good critics and the wonderful fitback you have got. I appreciate
very much your readiness to help and I thank you from the bottom of my
An hour before I met with a rebbetzin (rabbis wife) in Jerusalem
who has a lesbian daughter. I have known this wonderful family for years.
Now having seen the film, she said, "It is time. If any religious
parent needs to talk with someone about their gay child, I am ready to
be of help." I tried linking the two up, but the first mother was
too afraid to call. I just received an email that she finally mustered
up the courage, they spoke and and for the first time she felt truly understood.
More good news came at the end of the Festival - we won the Jerusalem
Film Festival's Mayor's Prize for the Jewish Experience! And a
few days later, we were awarded the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary
at OUTFEST Los Angeles.
In San Francisco, our Closing Night of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
was one of the most memorable highlights of showing Trembling. 1,450 people
packed the Castro Theater, one of the most beautiful movie palaces in
the world. The firecracker Frisco audience sure lets you know through
their cheering and hissing if they agree or disagree with parts of a film.
Trembling was punctuated by plenty of cheers- the audience even clapped
when Malka got the Gold Medal for fastest Challah braiding recorded by
an Orthodox lesbian!
of the most memorable moments occurred after the screening when Rabbi
Langer, the Lubavich rabbi of San Francisco, reunited with David on stage
for what began as a tense dialogue. (Rabbi Langer was the first person
David told he was gay and Rabbi Langer directed David towards conversion
therapy to change to straight. In the film they meet after 20 years).
I give Rabbi Langer tremendous props for having the courage and willingness
to face such an audience while trying to tow the line on the Torahs
prohibitions on homosexuality. When he apologized to David for not having
stuck with him over these years, David was shocked, and one felt their
conversation in the film inched a step further. It was powerful and painful
to watch Rabbi Langer struggle to comfort David while not being able to
offer the total acceptance that David craved.
The evening ended with Rabbi Langer offering to host "Friday Night
Live in the Castro!" an all-inclusive Shabbat for everyone
- when we come back to San Francisco for our theatrical release.
See the San Francisco Jewish Bulletin article "Chabad
rabbi, gay man work on healing wounds at filmfest"
Photo of David, Rabbi Langer, Rabbi Steve Greenberg, Michelle (who has
lost 130 pounds since the film), and myself (on the Playskool chair) courtesy
of Richard Bermack