seekingferret: Two warning signs one above the other. 1) Falling Rocks. 2) Falling Rocs. (Default)
Quick note to say that, inspired by [personal profile] bironic's awesome idea of using a subtitle track to identify the fandoms and characters in "The Greatest", I have done a quick Interlingua track for fandom IDs for "Warning: Might Lead to Mixed Dancing".

seekingferret: Two warning signs one above the other. 1) Falling Rocks. 2) Falling Rocs. (Default)
This is Part three of my vid notes on my Jewish dancing vid Warning: Might Lead to Mixed Dancing. These are the boring notes about my process.

I conceived of the idea for Warning: Might Lead to Mixed Dancing in early October. I mean, I've long wanted to do a big multifandom Jews vid, and this was just the latest of a long list of songs I considered, but it's the one that I actually committed to making. I think I had a burst of vid-making energy and confidence coming out of Vividcon 2016, a new sense that the ambitious was achievable. I also think I went to two weddings in a month that played this song, and it gelled in my head as saying the right things to the right beat. At about that time,[personal profile] ghost_lingering asked me to look through my Jewish music collection for vid song suggestions for another project, and I think the idea rumbled to the front while I was flipping through song ideas for her.

I made a list of about 50 fandoms I thought might have Jewish dancing scenes I could use to collect, using my memory, and various online listicles of "The Top 50 Jewish Movie Moments" and so on. To organize it, I used [personal profile] jetpack_monkey's multifandom vid spreadsheet, at least at first. I ripped the relevant DVDs that I already owned and borrowed some of my top target DVDs from the library and originally I thought I was going to do a long collection phase before I started vidding, so I could get a sense of what the source was going to look like. I'd gather source, I'd clip, and then when I had a lot of dancing, I'd vid. This was boring, though. Making this vid was such a time commitment that I decided pretty quickly that to get me through it I needed to frontload the fun part as much as possible. That actually became a mantra, and I think it was wise. By the time I got to the miserable and tedious parts of vidding I was full-on committed and willing to put in the time. At the start, I did minimal organization, minimal technical fiddling, and maximal throwing things on the timeline and playing around. So I made a draft of the first 30 seconds or so using vobs of the 7 fandoms I'd gathered in mid-October. I felt instant glee that yes, this could work. I passed it to [personal profile] sanguinity and got a very similar instant glee response.

[personal profile] sanguinity: MORE
[personal profile] sanguinity: MAKE MORE

Aspect ratios between the TV stuff in 4:3 or 16:9 and the movie stuff in anamorphic widescreen was not accommodated for in this first draft. Some clips were interlaced, some were telecined, There where ghost frames all over the place, and jerky motion and jagged artifacts caused by the video quality. I didn't care about any of that. In terms of the technical aspects of vidding, my vid looked like shit. In terms of pure fannish id, it was a well needed shot of happiness from the very first draft. All the joy of the finished product is there in the first draft. Every time I got a new DVD in, I ripped it and then added its dance scenes to the timeline and rewatched again. Two seconds or six seconds a week, the vid grew. Watching even my ugliest drafts of this vid was such a joy. This slow sense of accumulating depth as more and more fandoms got added was such a joy.

I signed up for Netflix DVD on the one DVD plan. This meant I was getting in roughly one DVD a week to add to the vid. I also got some DVDs from the library system- these would typically come in batches of about four DVDs every week or two that I'd rip all at once and then review over the course of a week. So by the by, I steadily added about three fandoms to the vid each week for six months, with peak weeks being weeks where I added six fandoms at most. I don't think I could have done the vid if sources had been coming in faster, I'd have felt overwhelmed. I totally understand now why most of these massive multifandom vids are co-vidded, it would have made things go much faster if you could split the source evaluation stuff into multiple parts and divide the labor and the frustration. Nothing is more frustrating than checking through twenty episodes of some show and not finding any Jews dancing (Grace and Leo have three weddings in one mega-sweeps-week episode of Will and Grace and we don't see Grace dancing at all.).

I had a full timeline, via this slow process, by the last week in December. But it was very much not a finished vid. Of my targeted 50 fandoms, there were about 35 in the vid. Much of the timeline was taken up with stuff from Fiddler on the Roof, probably a third of the timeline was Fiddler. Another quarter was The Chosen. I knew most of that Fiddler and Chosen material was going to get pared back, but again in terms of frontloading the fun, I wanted to have a full timeline as quickly as possible. So that I could watch it and see the joy, so that I could get an image of the shape of the whole vid, and so I could show it off to people and have them see what I was doing. [This is when [personal profile] sanguinity started playing the guessing game of Fiddler or Chosen? Especially in the scenes of blackhatted dancing, she initially had trouble telling which ones were from Fiddler and which from The Chosen, but trained herself over several rewatches to recognize the presence or lack of electric lighting, certain background details, and other clues about whether the dancing was from Fiddler or The Chosen. I have the best betas.] Fiddler had so much dancing material in it that it let me see the overall shape of the vid very nicely. I could use a Fiddler clip and see the kind of clip from another fandom that would have to replace it.

Having the full timeline let me see what was missing and where the vid didn't celebrate the diversity of Judaism I wanted to, and I altered my priority list of things to add, deprioritizing a few things I'm fannish about but which overlapped too much with things I already had. The final vid ended up with two Seth Rogen films and three Barbra Streisand films, and I don't begrudge them that, because Barbra's the best, and because both of them have made careers out of refusing to deny their Jewishness for anything (Rogen starred in a Christmas movie and still played a Jew!),. But I could have easily had five Barbras and four Seths, and that would have been overmuch. And more broadly I took survey of the kinds of Jewish identities I was and wasn't highlighting yet. I particularly had a goal of increasing the representation of queer Jews in the vid, and Jews of color. It turns out that most such films are incredibly depressing, so that was an interesting adventure when trying to make a dance vid. The initial 30 second draft had only two queer Jews- Susan Ivanova and Willow Rosenberg, both of whom have female lovers die over the course of their series. I watched a whole bunch of queer Jews die stupid, futile deaths designed to make me feel sad. It did make me feel sad, but it also made me feel weary. It didn't make it in, because the only dancing is underneath the final credits, but I watched a movie called "Oy Vey, My Son is Gay." Yes, that is a thing that exists. It was terrible, as you'd expect given the title, but the queer Jew didn't die, and I think it was the first time in the whole process that happened. Representing Jews of color was harder. I managed to find a few to include, Cristina Yang and Lester Patel and maybe one or two others, but there simply isn't much out there, and what there is doesn't dance much on film.

Early January:

[personal profile] seekingferret: Sadly Sara Rue does not dance in Dorfman in Love.
[personal profile] ghost_lingering: D: Tragic!!!!
[personal profile] seekingferret: I kind of love how my only criterion to determine whether a movie is good over the past couple months has been "Do Jews dance in this?"

By late January I had hit 50 fandoms. And it was clear that I was not done, that I had room for more fandoms. In the process of tracking down the 50 sources, I'd gotten lines on some more things to check out, in a cascading process. So with 50 fandoms, I tentatively predicted I could fit 60 fandoms in the vid. And then I hit 60 and predicted I could maybe fit 70. And then I hit 75... I kept finding new things I wanted to add, by following up on other things a Jewish director had made, by following up on other things a Jewish actor had made, by skimming the DVD section of more and more libraries in my county system, by going on Wikpedia crawls, by talking to friends. And I kept getting better at the choreography, at figuring out how to match movement in one clip to movement in another, and use shorter clips to fit more movement in without it seeming jerky. So there kept being places I'd look at and think I have room to squeeze in another fandom here, and the more fandoms I stuck in, the better my eye got at spotting those little places.

I just rewatched one of my November drafts and it's striking a)how many clips from those early drafts stayed in the same place in the final version and b)how many of those clips have been dramatically shortened to now contain three or four other fandoms in the same time stretch. Cutting faster has always been one of my week points as a vidder, I've struggled to make faster cuts legible. I don't struggle with that anywhere near as much anymore- the new vids I've been working on this summer feature much bolder, more aggressive cutting, technique I've become comfortable with because of this project.

Mid March:

[personal profile] seekingferret: i really thought i was down to the last three or four fandoms to add to Et Rekod, and then something happened and my to-collect list ballooned by another ten or fifteen fandoms.
[personal profile] sanguinity: /cackles

In mid-March, with about 80 fandoms in the vid, I decided it was time to eat my vegetables, since the CVV deadline was in less than two months. I took a little over a week (mostly two weekends, really) to re-encode all of my vid clips. I cropped everything to a consistent 16:9 aspect ratio, making decisions about what part of the frame to include, and converted to an editing format that helped me get rid of ghost frames and do speed adjustments in clips easier. It was mostly a pretty brainless process, and I'd gotten practice at it when making my West Wing vid, since West Wing switches from 4:3 to 16:9 halfway through the show and a vidder needs to decide which aspect ratio to work with. But there are decisions to be made. About 60% of anamorphic or 4:3 clips can just be evenly cropped from each side because the action is centered, but the rest you need to make compositional choices about what to crop to make things fit 16:9 nicely. A few clips just got rejected in this phase as unworkable in 16:9.

The process was tedious and annoying but straightforward. I moved to this two step vidding process a couple years ago and it feels counterintuitive, like I'm creating double work for myself, but it seems to work better. Clipping as a process unconnected to my final identification of where useable clips will end up on the timeline rarely works for me. I end up clipping a bunch of stuff I'll never use, have trouble figuring out which clips are which and what I want to use. By roughing out the vid using low quality source, I save time when I do clip and keep my workflow way more organized. For very generous definition of 'organized'.

Early April:

[personal profile] seekingferret: vidding related psychosis has advanced to a new stage: i am watching two different medical dramas at the same time. scanning through an ER episode on one screen to get to Dr. Greene tangoing whilst watching an episode of Chicago Med to see if Dr. Latham ever dances on the other screen.
[personal profile] sanguinity: Only two screens?
[personal profile] sanguinity: Elementary's Sherlock would be watching seven.

From this point on, I kept going, adding more fandoms as I acquired them. I hit 94 in Mid-April and basically said "This vid is done." And I was truly right, I could have submitted it, it was a great vid. But the number 94 nagged at me. I was so close to 100! And then they announced an extension to the submission date for CVV and I said okay, I'm going for 100. Then I blinked and I had 104 fandoms. (It was kind of a slow blink. I think I hit 97 and then I identified ten more possibles and put them on Netflix/library hold and seven came in within time for me to add them. I distinctly remember a conversation with [personal profile] ghost_lingering where I said "I'm just shy of 100, just going to add a couple more fandoms to finish at 100, and she said "There's no way you're going to just stop at 100." She was right.)

The day before Club Vivid vids were due, I went to the liquor store and bought a bottle of Slivovitz. I'm... not sure it's fair to say I dislike Slivovitz. Most of the time I dislike Slivovitz, but then I get into moods where it feels like the right thing to drink. It is the drink of the old country. This was one of those nights. I poured myself a shot, uploaded the vid to the Vividcon site, and then downed the shot. I felt lightheaded and relieved.


-10/1 First conceive of vid idea
-10/15 Started collecting sources
-11/29 First export, just first 30 seconds, 7 fandoms, no deinterlacing or cropping aspect ratio mismatches. Expected to use about 50 fandoms
-12/28 First full timeline render. ~35 fandoms
-1/21 Up to 58 fandoms, expecting to use about 5 more and then run out of space
-1/28 Up to 61 fandoms, thought was up to maximum
-2/26 up to 74 fandoms
-3/14 up to 78 fandoms, discover another 10-15 possibles
-3/23 begin remaster for finished clips, finally fix all the aspect ratio mismatches
-4/1 remaster finished, up to 85 fandoms
-4/16 up to 94 fandoms, happy with draft but gnawed by the sense of how close to 100 I am
-4/23 up to 97 fandoms
-4/27 up to 99 fandoms
-5/7 up to 104 fandoms
seekingferret: Two warning signs one above the other. 1) Falling Rocks. 2) Falling Rocs. (Default)
I've realized that though it might take me months to write up full fandom notes for Warning: Might Lead to Mixed Dancing, I can start unpacking it in smaller pieces. So I've written some thoughts on the title. It's over 3000 words on its own. I may have mentioned that I have a few things to say about this vid. ;)

It looks like I started using the title in January, about three months after I started vidding. Before that, the working title was simply the title of the song "Et Rekod", which is Hebrew for "A Time to Dance." I think probably the new title occurred to me because I was talking about a specific section of the vid which starts at 3:02 and which in the final draft consists of a series of scenes of gender segregated dancing in which the barriers become increasingly evident until they are ultimately breached (in early drafts, this section was simply the scene in Fiddler on the Roof where Perchik and Hodel instigate mixed dancing at Tzeitl's wedding). In early conversation I thought of this sequence from the vid as the "might lead to mixed dancing" section, and I think it eventually occurred to me that the label in some ways applied more broadly.

The phrase "Might lead to mixed dancing" is a liberal Orthodox Jewish meme with a variety of subtly different meanings in different contexts. It is a sarcastic criticism of chumras- added stringencies in the practice of Jewish law, not required by the letter of the law, but which start to take on some of the weight of Jewish law when a whole community adopts them. The ostensible purpose of a chumra is to establish good habits for the consistent practice of the required law. As a tame example, many Jews write 'G-d', when the English word 'God' is not actually a holy name required to be so euphemized, because if you were careless in writing the name in English, you might lose the habit and forgetfully be careless when writing an actually holy name of God in Hebrew.

Some chumras are ridiculous, though. They require a significant sacrifice on the part of the practitioner and the sin they're trying to help avoid is minor or only tangentially connected. Saying that the thing a chumra bans might lead to mixed dancing is the liberal Orthodox Jew's damnation that the chumra is driven by moral panic rather than piety.

Why does mixed dancing hold this status? Because mixed dancing has a fraught, difficult recent history in American Orthodox Judaism. The ban on mixed dancing in Judaism goes back to medieval Europe and somewhat more ambiguously to the Talmud. The reason for the ban on mixed dancing was fear it was immodest and might lead to further illicit sexual contact between the genders.

My parents' shul is a Young Israel, a movement of Modern Orthodox synagogues founded in the 1920s to try to create a space where young American Jews could feel comfortable practicing in the traditional rite, to keep them from being drawn to a secular life, or worse, Reform or Conservative Judaism. ;) Its main concession to modernity was that in opposition to this traditional Jewish law, it sanctioned mixed gender dances, with the goal of promoting traditional intramarriage through more intimate contact between young Jewish men and women. This approach became so common in American Orthodoxy that a lot of American Jews didn't realize mixed gender dancing was against longstanding Jewish law.

It wasn't until the post-war era that centrist Orthodoxy began to challenge the practice of sanctioned mixed dances. A massive battle of words broke out. A great summary of the history of the fight by historian Zev Eleff is here. The tl;dr is that today, it's unthinkable to imagine mixed dancing in a Young Israel synagogue, and a lot of people aren't even aware of the history, as part of a general rightward shift in Modern Orthodoxy, but the liberal faction that lost but stayed in Orthodoxy remains unhappy about the new status quo.

Thus jokes about the horror of mixed dancing. There is a famously filthy joke, the Jewish equivalent of the Aristocrats, whose punchline is "Might Lead to Mixed Dancing". There is a much shared, viral chart about the meme. At the core of these jokes there is a sense that there is something hypocritical about the attention placed on mixed dancing when we know there are young Jews who are secretly dating non-Jews, or secretly having premarital sex, while living public lives where mixed dancing at a wedding is unthinkable. There's something screwed up about the attitude about sex implied by this contradiction, some idea that sex is a thing we can wish away by not talking about it, that if men and women don't interact with each other, nothing undesired can happen. There's also a general frustration with the way Orthodoxy has taken a rightward turn in the past several decades and overturned longstanding practice that, while it may not have technically aligned with medieval Jewish law, was the commonly accepted practice of the Orthodox Jewish world.

But I want to go further than this. If my vid is advancing an argument about mixed dancing, it is this:

1. Dancing is an essentially Jewish act. In particular, dancing shamelessly, without regard to technique, to celebrate life and family and community, is an essentially Jewish act. It's so fundamentally Jewish that it was the immediate and unrestrained response of the Israelites when God split the sea. It was David's response to the dedication of God's sanctuary in Jerusalem. I sought to particularly highlight this sort of dancing in the vid, dancing whose sheer exuberance makes up for its awkwardness and lack of rhythm. Often in the original source these dance moments were played for slapstick comedy- I use them instead to represent un-selfconscious joyousness.

2. Because dancing is a time when Jewish communities come together, dancing is inherently connected to the experience of enjoying the diversity and complexity of Jewish identities. I wanted secular Jews dancing with religious Jews, Misnagdim dancing with Chasidim, straight Jews dancing together, gay Jews dancing together, straight Jews dancing with gay Jews, Jews dancing with non-Jews, male Jews dancing with female Jews dancing with trans* Jews, old Jews dancing with young Jews, white Jews dancing with black Jews dancing with Asian Jews, in as many combinations and configurations and shapes as possible. I wanted to complicate stereotypes. Judaism represents this incomprehensible world-wide community united by nothing except our mutual willingness to proclaim, sometimes reluctantly, that we are all Jewish. Jewish dancing occasions like weddings and Bar Mitzvahs are a time when we make that proclamation as a community, when we say that the divisions among us are less important than the bonds between us.

3. Gender segregated dancing still carries with it the charge of relationships. The same gender relationships I feature dancing together in the vid include lovers, friends, mothers with daughters, fathers with sons, sisters, brothers, rivals. Looking at these couples context-free in the vid, can you tell which are the siblings dancing together, which are romantically involved, which are the close platonic best friends, which are the gay guy hitting on the straight guy or the bi girl hitting on the straight extraterrestrial (<3 Susan Ivanova forever)? Especially as our awareness of the presence of gay members of our Jewish communities increases, the idea that gender segregation is meaningfully safeguarding the dignity of our relationships seems increasingly false.

4. Gender segregated dancing always exists with an awareness of mixed dancing as this possibility on the other side of the barrier. Peeking over the mechitza is an obligate component of segregated dancing, not a violation of its principles, and there is some sense in which gender segregated dancers, celebrating the same occasion from across opposite sides of a wall, are united in one interconnected meta-mixed dance. When I was working through the 3:02 section of the vid with my beta [personal profile] sanguinity, I discussed the idea that I was trying to create a sort of geography of the mechitza by using a variety of clips looking from one side to the other. I'm not entirely sure how clear that actually worked out, but it's an important idea in how I conceptualized this section. Gender segregated dancing is never just the two sides of a wall.

5. Thus mixed dancing is an apotheosis of the universal celebration of Jewish identity, in all its diverse forms, and segregated dancing is actually just a limited subset of mixed dancing, posing all of the same challenges and offering all of the same opportunities for joy. In a draft of the vid never intended to be released, I juxtaposed the fictional, segregated wedding dancing section of the vid against a video of segregated wedding dancing at my sister's wedding: Me joyously dancing with my brother, my new brother in law, my father, my uncles and cousins and friends, with my sister and her female friends and family just behind us on the other side of the wall. Shortly after that video was filmed, we moved the mechitza out of the way and our whole family danced together. It was all of a piece, parts of the same celebration.

And in fact, I would say that 'mixed dancing' in the vid hopefully grows to mean more than mixed-gender dancing, but in the swirl of different fandoms mixing together, it means a great coming together of different kinds of Jews and Judaisms.

Another context to 'Might Lead to Mixed Dancing" I should acknowledge is the vid premiering at Vividcon's Club Vivid dance party. Which is its own kind of heterogeneous dancing experience, and I was aware as I was making the vid that the specifically Jewish parts of this vid would only speak to some fraction of the audience at the convention, and that I would need to make the vid able to offer something to the people who weren't there for the Jewish content. They are not the primary target audience for the vid, though. To some extent "Warning: Might Lead to Mixed Dancing", flashing in yellow over an image of Reb Saunders dancing in The Chosen, is a warning to the non-Jews that part of this vid will be inaccessible to them. But what is there for them, I think, is the fun of recognizing favorite characters as they get their two seconds of recognition, the curiosity of wondering about the interesting clips whose fandoms they don't know, and the fun of the dancing vid choreography. (My two primary betas are both not Jewish, so I've known for a long time that even if they didn't understand all of the Jewish meaning of the vid, there was a lot for them to enjoy anyway.)

Several years ago, I had a conversation with [personal profile] troisroyaumes that's stuck with me as a vidding inspiration. "At one point, I started wanting to make a parody vid, featuring some popular U.S. TV series, set very carefully and precisely to non-English song lyrics that half the audience would not understand." To a much greater degree, that program was what I accomplished with Ma'agalim, the West Wing vid I premiered at Club Vivid last year. "Ma'agalim" uses Hebrew wordplay and makes specific visual callouts to the Hebrew lyrics a central part of its storytelling. Shwekey's "Et Rekod" has a much simpler, more straightforward lyric and understanding it is not requisite to appreciating the vid. I feel like making the more aggressively incomprehensible vid last year for Club Vivid paved the way for making this vid. And I also think understanding the lyrics of "Et Rekod" and the way they reinterpret Ecclesiastes does add something to understanding the vid, and I made this vid knowing that its first audience would largely not have that understanding. I hope that may be a challenge to the vidders at Vividcon to think about their works in a wider, more global way. To remember that not everyone will understand the cultural context of their vid. Or not.

But also, what premiering the vid at Club Vivid meant is that I was premiering it AT a mixed gender dance. The warning is thus inherently ironic, the vid cannot lead to mixed dancing because mixed dancing is already happening (both in the sense of males dancing with females and in the sense of Jews dancing with non-Jews). That's something that gives me some degree of pause. All of this critique of segregated dancing in the Jewish community is a commentary by an Orthodox Jew who lives in a community where mixed dancing is not always welcome. At Club Vivid, that critique in inappropriate for the venue. Was serving this vid up, with its critiques of some aspects of Jewish community front and center, to a community primarily composed of non-Jews, the appropriate introduction? I'm not sure. But a lot of the Jews who were there came up to me after the vid premiered to thank me for making it. It said something important, at least, to the Jews who WERE at Vividcon.

I'm very careful in the fannish parts of me that I present to the Jewish community, among other reasons because not everyone will respond favorably to learning that I've written (relatively non-explicit) slash fiction, but also because some in the Jewish community think that Fandom is a distraction from Torah. And I'm careful about the Jewish parts of me I present in fandom, because as an Orthodox Jew in fandom I'm rare and my actions may be interpreted as representing my community. I've tried, in my two trips to Vividcon, to make it a place where Jewish identity and Fannish identity can harmoniously exist, hosting Shabbos fan dinners and premiering vids about Jewish characters and generally being visibly a Jewish Fan, with my shiny silver Con kippah and various fannish shirts all trying to bridge those two sides of myself, two sides of myself that don't necessarily exist in harmony at all times. I like to imagine that for the four minutes or so while the vid was playing at the con, I was publicly and visibly a Jewish Fan in all that implies, and I was representing that identity to the whole VVC community. And that that was another kind of mixed dancing the vid accomplishes. Maybe that's not true, but it felt that way anyway.

Let's take a closer look at the section that begins at 3:02. We start with a bride being raised on a chair at her wedding reception. it's clearly an Orthodox wedding, as she is surrounded exclusively by women and there is a mechitza barrier clearly shown on the right. Cut to a groom being raised on a chair in parallel, surrounded by men in the black suits and black hats and beards of a Hasidic sect. Cut to the two of them raised in the air holding a kerchief over the mechitza to establish a connection over the wall without actually touching, with the camera panning from him to her. All of this is from the opening of a House episode in which the bride is about to display the symptoms of some terrible and mysterious illness and collapse from the chair. House subsequently will spend the episode hectoring her to try to convince her that her religion is nonsense while searching for a diagnosis and treatment. The opening shots establish the separation of the genders, but also through the kerchief and the photography establish that the separation creates a relationship between the two sides, a literal physical geographic connection.

Cut to women energetically dancing in a circle. Cut to two women in white dresses swinging each other around in the middle of a circle of women. Cut to two Modern Orthodox men dancing together with other men dancing in the background. Cut to a group of Charedi men dancing in a circle. These scenes are respectively from Srugim, Hasodot, Srugim, and Hasodot, two Israeli media dealing with the difficulties of life in the Orthodox world. These two scenes both have hidden complexities in the dancing: In the wedding in Srugim, Yifat is a niddah- she has started menstruating. Technically, she should have reported this to her Rabbi and made several compromises in the wedding ritual to accommodate for it, but she has chosen to conceal it from everyone but her chasan in order to fully enjoy the wedding. In Hasodot, the two women dancing in white dresses are former lovers acting publicly as if they are just friends who happen to be dancing together in a gender segregated dancing circle. These shots ignore the existence of the other side of the mechitzah, but serve both to show the unambiguous joy of dancing in segregated settings juxtaposed against the things it forces people to leave unspoken. There is a bargain being made, and the joy comes at a cost to honesty.

Cut to two women peeking at men dancing on the other side of a mechitzah from Fill the Void. Cut to two young boys peeking at women dancing on the other side of a mechitzah from House. Cut to Reuven peeking at women dancing on the other side of the mechitzah in The Chosen. Cut to an overhead pan from the men dancing on one side of the mechitzah to the women dancing on the other side of the mechitzah in House. Peeking is a commonplace, looked down upon but practiced by both sides, who wonder what it would be like on the other side. Again, there is a geography and a connection. When we see men dancing together, it's not just about them, it's also about the women on the other side of the wall. When we see women dancing together, it's also about the men on the other side of the wall. There is a permeability to these walls, people can peek through them, peek over them, peek around them. The walls are just a construct, not an unbreachable barrier.

Cut to Perchik cutting the string separating the men and women in Fiddler on the Roof. The permeability of the wall reaches a breaking point.

Cut to the bride and groom from The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox, slowly approaching each other, reaching out, and eventually touching. The barrier has been breached, to the joy and relief of everyone. Mixed dancing has been achieved, the status of full Jewish connection.

Anyway, I still have a hell of a lot to say about this vid and will do so in further posts.
seekingferret: Two warning signs one above the other. 1) Falling Rocks. 2) Falling Rocs. (Default)
Consider this the start of me posting about the fandoms in Warning: Might Lead to Mixed Dancing. My nominations for Yuletide are fandoms I watched for the vid. They are awesome fandoms with amazing characters and relatively few people know about them.

1. Hasodot (The Secrets) | הסודות

This is an Israeli movie from about a decade ago, directed by Avi Nesher. The Hebrew title HaSodot, which literally means The Secrets, has an implication that the English title doesn't that the titular secrets involve the deep mysteries of the Bible): This movie floored me. I was nervous going in because I've learned the hard way from this project that movies involving gay Jews don't tend to work out well. (A corollary of the fact that movies involving gays don't tend to work out well, and movies involving Jews don't tend to work out well.) It did end in a het wedding, but I thought it did a much better job than, say, Kissing Jessica Stein, of understanding not only the bittersweetness of this, but the way its association of heterosexuality with happy endings makes it complicit in heterosexism. It also did not kill any of its queer characters (and this is a movie where people die! This is a movie about the consequences of messing with Kabbalah!), and its final shot was of the central queer couple happily dancing together at the het wedding. I think by the nature of the yeshiva-bound love triangle, the romance remixes and reinterprets Yentl's love triangle,- Michal torn between a conventional Torah marriage to Yanki ( who she clearly loves- the movie doesn't work the way it does if he's just a man she's forced to marry ) or a union with Naomi that would defy convention but would constitute a marriage To Torah and the joy of textual study, is a lovely requeering of an already queer text.

But more than the romance, what charmed me about this movie was the way it dealt with Kabbalah. I've never seen a movie that got the details and the feel so right. It made Kabbalah feel real and powerful and dangerous and meaningful while still maintaining a completely naturalistic environment. Naomi, in Kabbalist mode, has a stunning, arrogant command, and the rituals we see both resemble in frenzy and particulars the actual rituals of the 16th century students of the Ari and feel potent and transformative. The idea of a woman performing them and in the process transforming the meaning of the rituals is effective and powerful- I loved the scene where they sneak into the Ari's mikvah at night for a ritual immersion and in the process of doing something incredibly taboo rediscover the Bible's own sense that a woman's identity starts with her awareness of and pride in her body's physicality.

The only movie I've ever seen that handles Jewish folklore with this kind of depth of feeling is A Serious Man, and then only in the opening scene. This movie is suffused with an incredible sense of Jewish mysticism as a lived-in, comprehensible experience, not something esoteric or mysterious. As a mostly rationalist Jew, this is not my Judaism, but it's a recognizable, real Judaism nonetheless.

2. A Serious Man

The Coen Brothers' greatest movie in my superbiased opinion. Much to my disappointment, careful re-review of A Serious Man did not turn up any Jews dancing. This is the movie I most wanted to include in the vid and couldn't, because it's my favorite movie about Jews.

A Serious Man is so full of meaningful doubt, of trying to live a faithful life in a seemingly faithless world. It's great. It's also defined by a stunning realism. So many of the characters feel like people I know, they're annoying or loveable in exactly the way real people are. When I forced my father to watch it, he said afterward "I KNOW Sy Ableman. No I know TWENTY Sy Ablemans." They got the fabrics in the synagogue right. They got the look of the lawns right.

I nominated the three Rabbis that Larry Gopnik consults for advice on the meaning of life, in succession, after his wife leaves him. I love the surreal hierarchy of this subnarrative, how each succeeding Rabbi appears more serious but does not offer more serious advice. It's a brilliant parody of conventional Jewish folk narrative, a Jewish shaggy dog joke spun out with unexpected seriousness.

3. La'avor et Hakir (The Wedding Plan) | לעבור את הקיר

A sort of silly Israeli romcom made last year by the Breslov-Hasidic filmmaker Rama Burshtein. I imported a DVD copy from the UK when I needed it for the vid (the UK title is Through the Wall, a more literal translation of the Hebrew), a few months before it came out in the US, and then got to act all hipster when it hit the US and a bunch of my friends got excited about it and I was like "Hah! I was into that movie months ago.". #loser

Burshtein's films (this is her second) feel like they are made primarily for an audience of Breslov women and then secondarily in an ambassadorial capacity to the outside world. There's very much a sense I get that the perspective being pushed is unusual and particular and the idea of what constitutes a happy ending is shaped by Breslov attitudes rather than the ideals of a general viewing audience. The Wedding Plan is much more comic and much lighter than Fill the Void, her first film, but no less serious. It has a lovely romcom premise that a woman whose engagement is broken off decides to keep all of her wedding-related bookings and go through with the wedding, provided she can find a new husband in the next three months. And then it uses this premise to explore questions of theodicy, as well as look at coping with loneliness and one's sense of place within the community, and gentle moral teachings about how to respect other people. There's a hilarious sequence of bad dates as Michal tries to find her new 'the one'... the reasons why they are bad dates are striking. The guy who refuses to look at women he's dating until he marries so he can honestly tell his wife that she's the most beautiful woman he's ever seen is perhaps the most crystalline example of an adaptation of male chauvinism to the particular contours of the modern Hasidic world.
seekingferret: Two warning signs one above the other. 1) Falling Rocks. 2) Falling Rocs. (Default)
Title: Warning: Might Lead to Mixed Dancing
Responsible for the lack of consistent title block from vid to vid: seekingferret
Vidder: seekingferret
Song: "Et Rekod" by Yakov Shwekey
Fandom: Um... all of them? Or at least 104 of them.
Content Notes: Warning: Might Lead to Mixed Dancing
Length: 4:16
Summary: All the Jews! All the Feelz!. The Jewish dance vid of my heart.
Premiered at: Club Vivid 2017
Thanks to: Oh, man, the list. First and foremost, thanks to [personal profile] sanguinity and [personal profile] ghost_lingering for so much support and helpful feedback. Thanks to [personal profile] kass for positive feedback when it was desperately needed. Thanks to J,L,L,T, and B for giving me the opportunity to watch people respond to the vid in person and see what was landing. Thanks to a different J and L for offering a round of specifically Jewish feedback. Thanks to [personal profile] thirdblindmouse for canon suggestions and source provision. Thanks to anyone who has listened to me babble about Jewish movies in the past year, which is most of the people I know, even if they didn't necessarily know the reason I was watching a particular movie or show.

(Download available through the Critical Commons website. Note that you have to get a free account.)

(also posted to youtube)

I have so much to say about the making of this vid and my feelings about all the characters and fandoms in it that it's honestly a little paralyzing. I've written thousands of words of reveal notes and I still have thousands of words to go, but here is the vid! I worked on this vid from October to May and I poured all my heart and all my soul and all my might into this vid. It feels so amazing to finally share it with the world. It was so amazing to dance to it at Vividcon, wearing my Soulless Golem T-shirt.

Song lyrics )

List of all fandoms, not quite in order )


seekingferret: Two warning signs one above the other. 1) Falling Rocks. 2) Falling Rocs. (Default)

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