Distributed by Ruth Diskin Films Ltd., P.O.Box 7153, Jerusalem, 91071, ISRAEL
Produced by Ron Ofer – Ron Ofer Films
Directed by Ron Ofer
DVD , color, 88 min.
College - General Adult
Date Entered: 06/11/2013Reviewed by Sheila Intner, Professor Emerita, Graduate School of Library & Information Science, Simmons College GSLIS at Mt. Holyoke, South Hadley, MA
The long lasting pain inflicted by a Hasidic man in his twenties on a teenager is revealed in this searing film. Seeking to find peace after twenty years of repressing the trauma of being raped in his yeshiva (religious school) dormitory, Menachem Roth achieves a truly fitting revenge, carefully documented here.
As soon as he can, Menachem Roth, a filmmaker, leaves Israel and its ultra-Orthodox enclave for Germany. There, he pursues a peripatetic existence for years that includes partying, beer blasts, and sexual liaisons. But Roth, sent as a boy by his parents to live with his grandmother in Jerusalem’s Old City, is not content. While he was a student at an ultra-Orthodox boarding school, he was raped numerous times by an older student, the son of the yeshiva’s head, also a known pedophile. Though Roth never reported the incidents at the time, now he develops an increasingly compelling desire to confront his tormentor.
Roth returns to Israel. He reconnects with a former girlfriend, Michal, and, slowly, a plan forms. He decides to document every act he undertakes from his abandonment of his European life and a reunion with his beloved grandmother to an eventual confrontation with the rapist and a demand that the man, now a rabbi with fifteen children, acknowledges and repents his crime.
Roth first locates his former tormentor and begins to follow him. He phones him and asks for a meeting. He rents a tiny flat across from the man’s own apartment and observes his comings and goings, and the activities of the man’s wife and children. At the same time, Roth begins to return to Hasidic observance, growing a beard, wearing the fringed garment of the ultra-Orthodox, and studying and praying in his room. Even Michal, a non-religious Israeli, wears the super-modest clothing typical of Hasidic women when she visits him.
Eventually, the two men meet, ostensibly to study together. Roth chooses a lesson about repentance and forgiveness. During the lesson, Roth asks the man to confess what he did and repent his crimes. The man resists. Roth persists, getting him to agree to go together see a therapist. At last, although still refusing to articulate the words himself, the man confesses and repents in front of the therapist. Roth films him saying that he did what Roth says he did.
Technically lacking in finesse and requiring the use of English subtitles, Pursued successfully employs the power of the camera to reveal the underbelly of Hasidic life. It puts to shame those who use the cover of religion to hide their evil behavior and exposes them and their deeds in all their horror.