Leaving the Fold @ Rendez-vous du Cinema Quebecois

This particular documentary was filmed partially in Montreal and by Montreal director, Eric Scott (the Other Zionists, Je Me Souviens).

The documentary is about five young people who have decided to leave the fold of their Hasidic Jewish upbringing to lead a more secular life. Several of the five lived a claustrophobic early life within this ultra-orthodox religion and decided they wanted to examine the freedoms of the outside world. Leaving all that you have ever known is never an easy decision and none of these young people undertook it lightly. We see how to this day they are still struggling with the decision and having to deal with the repercussions of it. One girl, Sara, witnessed her older sister being ostracized and having stones thrown at her when she decided to leave.

Life after leaving is not any easier with the guilt and unfamiliarity with how the outside world works to deal with. These young people, for the first times in their lives, have to think about what to eat, wear and who to date. They are far behind their peers when it comes to life experience. Parents and communities feel abandoned and that the young ones are leaving the right path to embark on the wrong one.

We get to see the communalities and differences between the experiences of young people living in New York, Montreal and Jerusalem. Two brothers in Montreal, Hudi and Levi, have left the faith the dismay of their father, Pinchus, and have begun to live more secular lives. Father and sons try to keep the road of communication open despite their differences. Basya lives in New York and is a musician. She seems rather well adjusted despite the fact that we know that a woman leaving the Hasidic faith would have cut herself off from her entire family. She left to become a musician, which is not permitted within her religion. Z and Sara live in Jerusalem, who left the fold for two different reasons, but have come together to give each other strength to continue on.

The alienation that a couple of these young people feel from their communities is palpable. One young man walked around almost in a trance trying to deal with his decision. He had to abandon a wife and children because of his decision. A heavy price was paid. The frankness of the subjects of the film and their willingness to allow us to see them going through this hard decision is amazing. There is plenty of pain and confusion from these young people, but there are also welcomed moments of levity sprinkled throughout the film.

Anytime you choose to make a documentary about religion/culture you have to tread lightly. It is a sticky subject that is hard to make a film about without offending someone. Scott maneuvers very deftly through this minefield by focusing on the ones leaving and their lives rather than the religion itself. He uses this particular community to illustrate the age old struggle between children and their parents in regards to lifestyle choices. The film is about life, the choices we make and living with the results of those choices.

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