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Trembling Before G_d by Sandi Dubowski

  • Synopsis

Sandi DuBowski's documentary Trembling before G-D is about gays and Lesbians who are either Orthodox or Hasidic Jews. And while there is no shortage of documentaries about gay and lesbian human beings in all sorts of situations and communities, not many of them are as nervy or as revealing as this one.

  • DirectorSandi Simcha DuBowski (Director, Producer) is a filmmaker and writer based in New York. DuBowski is a recipient of the Rockefeller Foundation's 1999 Film/Video/Multimedia Fellowship. DuBowski's award-winning short, Tomboychik, received the Golden Gate Award for Best Short Documentary at the San Francisco International Film Festival. His current project, Trembling Before G-d is a USA/France/Israel co-production has been the recipient of multiple awards including The Teddy Award for Best Documentary at the Berlin Film Festival, The Mayor's Prize for the Jewish Experience at the Jerusalem Film Festival, The Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at OUTFEST Los Angeles, and The International Federation of Film Societies Special Mention at the Berlin Film Festival.In addition, his work has received support from Skywalker Sound - a division of Lucas Digital, Ltd. as well as over twenty foundations.

  • Review

DuBowski began the film when he was only 24, and he walked right into the belly of the beast. At one point, he says -- of course it couldn't be filmed -- that he even argued with the chief rabbi of Jerusalem. The film begins with the unequivocal prohibitions against homosexuality in major Jewish texts. Then it meets with a number of Orthodox Jewish homosexuals, as well rabbis who are serious and well-meaning, although generally no accepting.

But the documentary goes well beyond figuring out how a person can be homosexual as well as Orthodox. Trembling before G-D is about the conflicts between rationality and faith, and between commuity and individual. The gays and Lesbians in DuBowski's films want to be who they are personally, but they also want to observe their deep faith within the traditions of their families and religion. So they can't leave, and for some it's equally impossible to stay.

DuBowski found a fascinating range of people. Mark, a young Englishman from London, has AIDS. Israel leads "Big Knish Tours" through Hasidic sections of Brooklyn and hasn't seen his 98-year-old father, just a few blocks away, in decades. "Malka" and "Leah" have been together for 12 years, celebrating Judaism traditionally, but almost entirely within their own home. David tells of the rabbi who suggesting eating figs as a cure, and Rabbi Steven Greenberg is the first "out" Orthodox rabbi in this country.

Trembling before G-D shows an intricate legalistic side of Orthodox Judaism, as if to emphasize how complicated the issue is for the religion. DuBowski also believes that Judaism fundamentally wants to include people and honor their lives, and that through its often circuitous reasoning, it will eventually do that with its homosexuals.

Howie Movshovitz


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