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Unorthodox (2020)

If you haven’t already, I suggest you to see the new Netflix series Unorthodox, a 4-episode mini series on the coming of age story of a young woman who was raised strictly Jewish. 

The series is based on the true story of Deborah Feldman, who escaped from her arranged marriage and moved to Germany. It follows Esty in Berlin as she struggles to create a new life for herself, together with flashbacks that provide insights of her life in Williamsburg.

The series is incredibly immersive! I am usually not a binge-watcher, but I couldn’t stop with this one. I watched the whole thing as a 4-hour-long film instead of a 4-part series. I couldn’t let go without knowing all there is to know about Esty’s story.

Esty always knew she was different, and her husband Yanky thought it would end up being something positive. Life doesn’t go as planned, but Esty finds her passion when she leaves her cage.

By cage, I mean Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Williamsburg is where I call home and indeed feel lucky to be doing so. In Unorthodox, the same streets bear an opposite meaning for Esty. Williamsburg has become somewhat a prison to her; she keeps telling how awful life is there and that she cannot go back. Every neighbor is like a guardian as the whole community seems to be knowing each other. It is quite ironic what spaces happen to mean to us; and how subjective everything is. This neighborhood presented me the freedom to live as I am, whereas it is like a cage to Esty.

So, the series provided me with an insight of my neighbors, too. Everyday, I saw these people in traditional clothes around me and wondered the extent of their lifestyles. Never googled it, though. I assume the series depicts the most extreme, but still, I liked that it served to educate me on the Yiddish traditions and that I gained some general knowledge whilst watching Netflix. The filmmakers have a documentary-like style when it comes to opening up sacred spaces.

The story tells more than rebellion against religion. It depicts how a young woman is forced to set herself free when she is not allowed to exist outside certain boundaries. Still, some doctrines are so rigidly engraved into her being that she cannot fully separate her desires from those disciplines. What’s once called a taboo is very hard to elude oneself from. The same is the case with not only ultra-orthodox Jewish communities but with all strict understandings of religion.

Long story short, you should spare four hours of your precious quarantine days to follow Esty in her journey. It will definitely be worth it!

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