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|Based on||Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots|
by Deborah Feldman
|Directed by||Maria Schrader|
|Country of origin|
|No. of episodes||4|
|Running time||52–54 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Studio Airlift|
Real Film Berlin Gmbh
|Original release||March 26, 2020|
Unorthodox is a German-American drama web television miniseries that debuted on Netflix on 26 March 2020. The first Netflix series to be primarily in Yiddish, it is inspired by Deborah Feldman's 2012 autobiography, Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots. The series garnered eight Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including Outstanding Limited Series, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series (Shira Haas), Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series (Maria Schrader), and Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series (Anna Winger).
Esty, a 19-year-old Jewish woman, is living unhappily in an arranged marriage among an ultra-Orthodox community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City. She runs away to Berlin, where her estranged mother lives, and tries to navigate a secular life, discovering life outside her community and rejecting all of the beliefs she grew up with. Her husband, who learns that she is pregnant, travels to Berlin with his cousin, by order of their rabbi, to try to find her.
- Shira Haas as Esther "Esty" Shapiro
- Amit Rahav as Yakov "Yanky" Shapiro
- Jeff Wilbusch as Moishe Lefkovitch
- Alex Reid as Leah Mandelbaum
- Ronit Asheri as Malka Schwartz
- Gera Sandler as Mordechai Schwartz
- Dina Doron as Esty's grandmother ("Bubbe")
- Aaron Altaras as Robert
- Tamar Amit-Joseph as Yael Roubeni
- Aziz Dyab as Salim
- David Mandelbaum as Zeidy
- Delia Mayer as Miriam Shapiro
- Felix Mayr as Mike
- Eli Rosen as Rabbi Yossele
- Safinaz Sattar as Dasia
- Langston Uibel as Axmed
- Isabel Schosnig as Nina Decker
- Laura Beckner as Vivian Dropkin
- Harvey Friedman as Symcha Shapiro
- Lenn Kudrjawizki as Igor
- Yousef "Joe" Sweid as Karim Nuri
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|1||"Part 1"||Maria Schrader||Anna Winger||March 26, 2020|
On a Sabbath day, 19-year-old Esty Shapiro, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish married woman, flees her home in the Williamsburg, Brooklyn, section of New York City with only a handful of possessions. She takes a plane to Berlin, where her estranged mother lives, but runs away before they can meet after seeing her mother kiss her female partner. At a coffee shop, Esty meets Robert, a young man ordering many coffees. She helps him take coffee to his friends who are waiting at a nearby music conservatory where they all study. Esty sneaks into their rehearsal, and is deeply moved by their music. After the rehearsal, she hears the group announce they are going to the beach, and asks to come along. At the beach, Esty removes her sheitel as she bathes in the water, revealing her hair.
Back in Williamsburg, Esty's husband, Yanky Shapiro, discovers she is missing, and runs to his family for help.In a flashback, Esty prepares to marry Yanky, and is visited by her mother who gives her repatriation papers for Berlin, should she ever need them. Esty goes forward with her wedding.
|2||"Part 2"||Maria Schrader||Alexa Karolinski|
|March 26, 2020|
Esty is discovered sleeping overnight in the conservatory. She is encouraged to apply for a hardship scholarship given to talented refugees and musicians in other difficult circumstances. Esty decides to go forward as she plays the piano. When her conservatory friends invite her to dinner, they ask her to perform a piece. Esty is heartbroken when one of them, Yael, tells her that, while she is musical, her playing is merely adequate and nowhere near good enough for the conservatory. She calls home for the first time, but is further distressed when her grandmother hangs up on her without speaking.Yanky and his cousin Moishe fly to Berlin to try to retrieve Esty, and Yanky is stunned by Moishe's wordly ways.
|3||"Part 3"||Maria Schrader||Anna Winger|
|March 26, 2020|
Esty decides to withdraw her application for the conservatory, but the woman processing her application convinces her to continue with it. She goes to a club to see Yael performing, and is spotted by Moishe, who has succeeded in tracking her down. Esty leaves with Robert before Moishe can confront her. When they return to Robert's apartment, Robert and Esty share an intimate encounter.In a flashback, Esty's marriage begins to crumble almost as soon as it starts as she cannot have sex with Yanky because she finds it painful. She is eventually told she is suffering from vaginismus. After a particularly angry fight with Yanky, Esty urges him to complete sex with her, despite her horrific pain.
|4||"Part 4"||Maria Schrader||Alexa Karolinski|
|March 26, 2020|
|Moishe finally tracks down Esty, and threatens her, telling her she will have nothing if she doesn't return to her husband. In distress, Esty finally contacts her mother, who promises to support her and her child. Esty decides to go through with her audition, switching her discipline from the piano to voice. After her audition, she is approached by Yanky, who begs her to come home with him. Promising to change, Yanky cuts off his payot, but Esty tells him it is too late for them and leaves to start her new life.|
The series was inspired by, and is loosely based on, the memoir Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman, who left the Satmar movement, a Hasidic community in New York City. The show has language switching from English to Yiddish to German. The show was written by Anna Winger and Alexa Karolinski, directed by Maria Schrader, produced by Karolinski, and filmed in Berlin. The music academy in Unorthodox is based on the Barenboim-Said Akademie. Anna Winger told The Guardian: "There's a real music academy called the Barenboim-Said Akademie where Jews and Muslims play classical music together, like a whole utopia. We were inspired by this idea, as the sort of institution that could only begin in Berlin." 
Feldman approached writers Winger and Karolinski to turn her autobiography into a television series. They took on the project in part because the story meshed with several topics of mutual interest, especially the challenges of being Jewish in Germany. Winger said that the story "has a kind of doubling back on history", portraying a Jewish character who escapes the "confines of her own life" by returning "to the source of her community's trauma". Because Feldman is a public figure, the writers veered from her life in the fictional Berlin sequences, but based the flashbacks on the book.
An early hire was actor and Yiddish specialist Eli Rosen, who translated the scripts, coached the actors, helped with cultural details, and played the rabbi. The production team took two research trips to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, touring buildings and meeting with the community of Satmar Jews, where part of the story is set. Cast in Germany, Jeff Wilbusch was unique among the four lead actors in being a native Yiddish speaker from the Satmar community (via the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem).
Filming began in New York, then relocated to Berlin, where the production designer built interior sets at CCC Filmstudios that synced with the Brooklyn exteriors. Berlin locations include Potsdamer Platz, which served as the set for the music academy and surroundings, and the Wannsee lake (Großer Wannsee), where, as referenced in the story, the "Final Solution" was planned at a shoreline villa.
For the production and costume designers, the project presented the challenge of creating a period film set in the present day, with the main character gradually transitioning between them. The two-day filming of the wedding was a complex undertaking, involving about a hundred extras that had to accurately depict a nuanced cultural celebration. "The joke on the show was that the men required way more hair and make-up than the women", Winger said. Costume designer Justine Seymour obtained some of the clothes in Williamsburg, but not the costly fur hats, shtreimels, which were made by a Hamburg-based theater company, using fake fur, instead of minks.
The miniseries received critical acclaim upon its release. The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 95%, based on 41 reviews, with an average rating of 8.09/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Unorthodox adapts its source material with extreme care, crafting a series that is at once intimate and urgent, all centered around Shira Haas' captivating performance." On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 85 out of 100, based on 11 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
Making Unorthodox documentary
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