Trembling Before G-d

"Good"

Trembling Before G-d Review


Is it possible to be a gay Orthodox Jew? According to the Torah, it is high sin to have sexual relations with someone of the same gender. It goes against the basic commandment to "be fruitful and multiply." Obviously, being orthodox means strictly adhering to even the oldest, most out-of-date laws. This film sheds light on some of the lives that have tried desperately to combine their religious backgrounds with the sexual preferences they were born with.

By sampling groups of people from London to New York to Israel (the Jewish homeland), Trembling Before G-d (yes, that's the title, without the O in God) effectively proves the universality of being homosexual. It's not something you catch, and it's not something you can control, though you can abstain or just masturbate. It's not simply a recent fad that will blow over. These individuals didn't choose to be the outcasts they've become, and some even try every idiotic method their rabbis suggest to change.

Complete with rabbis who discuss their views on homosexuality and its resulting need for abstinence, Trembling is your average talking-head documentary. Some take the slant that homosexuals can't help being who they are, as long as they don't act on their urges while others encourage their flock to go to therapy on the path to changing. As for the gay and lesbian lives explored, they all seem to want to be a part of the community that won't accept them without change.

It's not that these lives are uninteresting, or even that you cannot empathize with their plight. Where you almost want to tell them that leaving their religious practices might make them happier, it is also clear that their religion used to be a source of joy and there is no real logic that says it couldn't still be. That the subjects come from various countries and economic backgrounds lends more flavor to the wish for acceptance.

Unfortunately the film tends to repeat the same questions to each of its profiles. We see and hear them shunned by synagogue and family as they try to lead normal lives in their respective communities. There's only so much "religion is unforgiving" that any audience member can be expected to put up with. So, when the third person cries because their family no longer speaks to them, it's not nearly as strong as the first who shed tears. This repetition, while respectful of those it is depicting, makes the 84-minute film seem far longer.

Still, director DuBowski intelligently chooses a variety of rabbinical authority figures and homosexual personalities to interview. Though these might be the same rabbis that encourage homosexuals to change, or abstain, for the sake of the old teachings, they are never portrayed as extreme enough to be considered "evil." They are attempting to combine what they have been taught with the circumstances of their congregants and, in some cases, they seem as disturbed as those they are trying to help. By the same token, you can't always agree with the way in which a gay or lesbian individual is handling their situation.

The central premise of the film is an important one, especially for those in similar situations. It provocatively begs for flexibility in traditional values by placing these dilemmas in human form, even if it doesn't vary enough to consistently hold your interest.

The new DVD adds a second disc with outtakes and testimonials from those whose lives have been touched ny this unique film.



Trembling Before G-d

Facts and Figures

Run time: 94 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 6th December 2001

Distributed by: New Yorker Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 54 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 7.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Sandi Simcha DuBowski

Producer: Sandi Simcha DuBowski,

Also starring:

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