Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Movie with Abe: 93Queen

Directed by Paula Eiselt
Released July 25, 2018

Especially in today’s society, in which civil liberties and rights for those with no voice are emphasized and demanded through social media and global campaigns, cultural dynamics that favor one set of people over another are often a source of great scorn and criticism. While those outside the situation may perceive a certain inequality, there may be a more complex truth at the root of it, with that seemingly marginalized group expressing an altogether different notion of resistance that might surprise those eager to lobby on their behalf.

“93Queen” tells the story of Ruchie Freier, a resident of Borough Park in Brooklyn, who worked to help create Ezras Nashim, the first all-female volunteer ambulance corps in New York City. The Hasidic mother of six already stands out in her community as a trained lawyer, and her quest to develop a program for religious women to be able to be met in emergent moments, mainly childbirth, by fellow women rather than men, is met with much hostility, seen as an affront to the already existent, all-male Hatzolah volunteer ambulance corps.

Support for this effort isn’t hard to find among women in the community, and what proves most interesting is their outlook on what they are trying to achieve. Ruchie and her fellow trailblazers decry labels of feminism, claiming that such attitudes seek to achieve an equilibrium between the sexes that has no place in traditional observant Judaism. She still believes that she and the other women are completely capable of being trained and providing a valuable service, though she at one moment suggests that things would have been so much easier had God just made her a man since it wouldn’t all be such a struggle.

One commonplace element of films, both fiction and nonfiction, that deal with observant religion in general and Judaism in particular, is that to become successful and happy requires a sacrifice, or at least compromise, of beliefs. That comes up at no point throughout this documentary, with Ruchie seen frequently praying, preparing home-cooked meals for her family every day, and politely explaining to non-Jewish men at a conference that she isn’t able to shake their hands. To Ruchie, what she is doing is fulfilling her purpose in this world, using her religious anchor to propel her to the most meaningful work she can do.

“93Queen,” from Orthodox female filmmaker Paula Eiselt, gets to the heart of the Hasidic community in Borough Park, offering an incredible level of access and providing subtitles to define the Yiddish and Hebrew words used frequently by the women interviewed so that it can be easily understood by any audience without compromising or diluting the authenticity of its subject population. Freier is a fascinating central figure for a film about an arduous, inspiring journey to create something that seemed unfathomable yet managed to come into existence in the incredible way skillfully documented here.


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