Filmmaker Joshua Z. Weinstein directs his latest feature film Menashe, on location,in the heart of the known Hasidic community of Borough Park, Brooklyn, New York. Written by Joshua Z. Weinstein, Alex Lipschultz and Musa Syeed, their narrative portrays real-life dilemmas and comedic realism when radical faith collides with the mishaps of life and it's uncontrolled circumstances.
Weinstein's man-of-the-hour is none other than the real Borough Park's You Tube famed Hasidic comedian, Menashe Lustig. Based on events in Lustig's life Weinstein trusts the non-actor to deliver a stellar performance playing himself. Weinstein is pleasantly surprised how charismatic and natural Lustig appears on the big screen. Prior to the Sundance Film Festival 2017 screening, Lustig had never been to a movie theater so his first appearance was to attend the screening his own film.
Filming on location had its challenges. The first was to get permission to film in a relatively closed and secret community. Second was to gain the trust of the community in order for the subjects to agree to be on camera. Weinstein was an outsider so they did not trust that the project would put their community in a positive light.
Weinstein slowly convinced influential members of the community to trust him (who is also Jewish) and for the real-life narrative to shed the appropriate spotlight through the media of film. It developed as a love-letter to the community. It truly set the tone for a memorable experience for all involved.
Remarkable is Weinstein's portrayal of the intellectually gifted Rabbi. He eloquently captures the vulnerability of the community's respected authority figure who goes to great lengths to love and understand the whole community that he ministers--oddballs included.
One of the only movies to be shot in Yiddish in seventy-years, Menashe is authentic and tender-hearted, sharing the right amount of humor believable within the notoriously private Hasidic community.
Menashe (Menashe Lustig), a recently widowed Orthodox Jew struggles to raise his young son, Rieven (Ruben Niborski) alone in the stringent Hasidic community of Borough Park, Brooklyn, New York.
Menashe's misfortune is that he is now without his wife and the mother of his son. A hardship is put on him to maintain custody of Rieven. The Hasidic traditions require that a mother must be present in the home to raise the children. According to the Hasidic law, if there is no mother in the household then the child is adopted by the boy's nearest relative where there is a mother present.
Menashe knows that his unstable life-style isn't the best for Rieven and he would have a better life living with his strict, rich, married uncle but neither Menashe nor Rieven want to be separated. The Rabbi in the community evaluates the situation and grants the father and son to be together the whole week prior to Menashe's wife's memorial.
A special bond develops during this week between Menashe and Rieven neither had experienced. Menashe must prove to his community that he is not only capable of providing for his son but as his father, he is the right person to raise him. It's the child he and his wife brought into the world to nurture under God's Devine order.
Proving this point has it's difficulties for Menashe. He rarely measures up to the other men's standards. He's often pitied. Needing a little compassion Menashe can't help but reveal his true-self. Menashe is just-as-much of a fun-loving kid as Rieven, who loves his son more than himself. (Karen Pecota)