Unorthodox

“God expected too much of me. Now I need to find my own path”

  • Title: Unorthodox
  • Director: Maria Schrader
  • Release date: 26th March 2020

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Unorthodox is a four-part series based upon the life of a young girl living within the restraints of the authoritarian Satmar Jewish community. Gaining inspiration from the memoirs (Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots) of best-selling author Deborah Feldman, Unorthodox is undoubtedly like no other in its eye-opening portrayal of this small community.

Set in Williamsburg, New York and Berlin, Germany, the series follows young ‘Esty’ as she struggles to conform to the restrictions of her community, which ultimately drives her to escape. The series focuses on the restraints of the Satmar Jewish community in comparison to western culture. In its portrayal, it gives an insight into life in an orthodox religious community, and representing them for one of the first times in popular culture.

With an unrecognizable cast, many of whom are members of the Satmar Jewish community, producer Alexa Karolinski and director Maria Schrader stunned in capturing the authenticity of Deborah’s story. For me the performances of Shira Hass (‘Esty’) and Jeff Wilbusch (‘Moishe’) certainly needs to be acknowledged. Gaining her international breakthrough as she tapped into her Jewish roots, Hass’ performance felt truly authentic as she explored the character of Esty on screen. Similarly, Wilbusch gave a fantastic performance as the tragic and disturbed character of ‘Moishe’, a reflection of what can occur due to the pressures of an orthodox religious community. From the community himself, I think it’s quite symbolic that Wilbusch plays the role of a character that is driven to break the rules of his religion.

As well as the acting, the cinematography was also sublime. This was aided by the present-day scenes to create a similar but distinguishingly different account for the character of Esty in an attempt to dramatize the series to entice viewers further.

To summarise, Unorthodox is undoubtedly one of the best docuseries I have seen. By bringing the realities of this orthodox community to life, it allows us as audience members to open our eyes to the many realities people face around the world as well as being extraordinarily emotive and engaging in its depiction.

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