The Award for Best Jewish Punk Film Goes To ...
In July, The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB's author Steven Beeber announced that production was imminent for a documentary based on his book. He also mentioned The Adventures of Curly Oxide and Vic Thrill, which I had blogged about earlier that month and first mentioned a couple of years ago. Said Beeber, "I guess the only question now is which film will get the Oscar in the Jewish Punk category. And the envelope, please ..." Believe it or not, there's another film in the works that would qualify for "the Jewish Punk category."
Director Jesse Zook Mann and producer Evan Kleinman are working on a documentary called Punk Jews. They released a five-minute trailer last month; click here to watch it. They hope to finish filming next year and release a full-length documentary in 2010 or 2011. The film is not so much about Jewish punk music (although the trailer does include a snippet of a Sons of Abraham song and I met Kleinman when he was filming a Moshiach Oi! performance last month) as it is about unconventional practice of Judaism.
"I want to turn people on to the idea that people can be creative inside of their heritage and can create what their religion means to them and that freedom and honoring your heritage are not mutually exclusive," says Zook Mann. He added:
I grew up in a household in New York with three religions: Judaism, Hinduism, and Christianity. . . . There are definitely more people who would tell you the people in our film are not Jewish than would say they are - but that's what punk rock is about. People have been telling me that I'm not Jewish all my life because I dropped out of Hebrew school. But I can tell you that at Cholent [a Jewish gathering featured in the trailer], there is an undeniable connection between all the Jewish people there, and that's the magic of it. Secular people getting schooled in mysticism from a member of the Orthodox community, people wandering in from the outside to sing a Niggun with everyone. I've never been in a place where I was accepted as Jewish, and was free to ask questions and learn and share from people from all different walks of life, being exactly who I am. This film is my Hebrew school. Sure, maybe this school is unorthodox, but the experiences I've had at Cholent have moved me like no institution.
It could be said that being vegan and being punk are both ways of being Jewish on one's own terms. Zook Mann says, "I've been vegan for 16 years now, and whenever growing up on Long Island I'd meet people who didn't understand what veganism was, I would just say, 'I'm like a REALLY kosher guy,' and they would get it. ... I have to wonder that if kosher rules were first written today, with the animal agriculture industry being what it is, perhaps they might be written differently."