Menashe brings Yiddish back to the Big Screen

Menashe Lustig and Ruben Niborski in MENASHE. Photo by Federica Valabrega, courtesy of A24

Menashe brings Yiddish back to the big screen for the first time in some 60-70 years.

Directed by Joshua Z Weinstein from a screenplay written by Weinstein, Alex Lipschultz, and Musa Syeed, the film stars Menashe Lustig, Ruben Niborski, Yoel Weisshaus, and Meyer Schwartz.

Given that the film is in Yiddish with English subtitles, it will be interesting to see what will happen come awards season and whether it will be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.  There’s been talk that A24 is lobbying the Academy to make an exception for an American-made film.  Hopefully, the studio will be successful in their efforts as Yiddish qualifies as a foreign language.

Menashe (Lustig) works at the grocery store located in a Chasidic community in the Borough Park area of Brooklyn.  He’s been struggling since the death of his wife, Lea, and his brother-in-law, Eizik (Weisshaus), takes custody their son, Rieven (Niborski).  Eizik is very strict and looks to adopt Rieven since it’s apparent that Menashe doesn’t feel up to getting re-married anytime soon.  The guy lost his wife–can’t he catch a break?!?

Because of the way things work in his ultra-Orthodox Chasidic community, children need to be in a two-parent home or they get kicked out of school.  It’s not right but that’s just the way it is.  Heartbroken, all Menashe can do is go on dates even if he’s not up to it just so he can get the custody of his son back.

Menashe and Eizik decide to take things up before the Ruv (Schwartz) of their community.  In listening to the arguments, the Ruv gives Menashe special permission to be with his son during the week preceding Lea’s memorial.  If Menashe is unable to prove himself to those around him, it won’t sit well for finding respect in the community.

“I didn’t know until I met Menashe about the community’s informal court system and how it impacts kids and people who wanted to get remarried after their spouses die – that’s all based on Menashe’s life,” Weinstein says.  “The actual events of the movie are fictional, we just took that emotional arc.”

With how media is looked up on in the ultra-Orthodox communities, Weinstein had no choice bit to shoot the film in secret.  Because of this, we get an authentic look at the private Chasidic community.  Nobody in the film really had any acting experience going into the film.

Menashe is a film that’s about a man who has been dealt a bad thing in his life and he’s doing the best that he can.

The film premiered at Sundance earlier this year.  A24 opened Menashe in NY/LA on July 28, 2017.  Menashe will open in Chicago on August 11, 2017.  As of now, it will be playing in Chicago the Music Box Theatre, Cinemark Evanston 12, AMC Northbrook Court 14, Landmark Renaissance Place 5 Highland Park, and Regal Lincolnshire Stadium 15 IMAX.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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