Tribeca 2019: Black Hat

Shmuel (Adam Silver) in Black Hat. Photo Credit: Jeff Tomcho

Directed by Sarah Smith and written by Phillip Guttmann, Black Hat takes us into the life of a Chasidic Jew hiding a very big secret from his community.

After starting in the sanctuary of a shul, Shmuel (Adam Silver) heads to work where he manages a dry cleaner.  He has a look of worry in his eyes when he sees two men walking hand in hand.  What eventually follows is a restless night for Shmuel.  Naturally, he decides to go out–taking off his Chasidic garb when he reaches a safe distance.  He ends up at a gay club where he hits it off with Jay (Sebastian Velmont), only to forget his hat on the way out the door.  Those hats are not exactly cheap!

The only reason that Shmuel is able to get away with this double life is because his wife and children are out of town for a few days.  While he’s sitting at the bar, Jacob (Alan Lennick) is sitting around the corner.  Jacob soon becomes the hero that Shmuel didn’t even know he needed…

While it should be perfectly normal for an Orthodox minyan to have an LGBTQ Jew or two, the reality is that it isn’t simple.  We have seen this in the news recently more often than not.  I won’t name names but my fellow Orthodox LGBTQ Jews know exactly who I’m talking about here.  There are two recent examples that come to mind here. But to drive this point home, the lack of acceptances has driven some to leave Orthodoxy and go off the derech.  It’s unfortunate but it is what it is.

Just like with Disobedience, this is a film that shows us that you should never assume that everybody is straight.  I can’t help but feel bad for Shmuel’s family but give that he’s Chasidic, it was likely an arranged marriage.  This is purely speculation on my part.  While there are those Chasidic Jews who are accepting of their LGBTQ friends and family, there are others who would do nothing more than shun us.  Believe me, I have Orthodox family members who no longer want anything to do with me since I came out as transgender.  It’s because of this that I know exactly how Shmuel must be feeling.  On the one hand, it’s easier for him to live this double life with being gay.  If he were trans, it would be very hard to hide.

As Black Hat shows its viewers, love is love–even in the Chasidic Jewish commuity.

DIRECTOR:  Sarah Smith
SCREENWRITER:  Phillip Guttmann
CAST:  Adam Silver, Sebastian Velmont, Shelly Kurtz, Alan Lennick, Carolyn Michelle Smith, Nicholas Hylander

Black Hat held its New York premiere during the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in the Shorts program.

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.