My continued efforts to discover great content across the streaming channels led me to discover what is, I think, one of my favourite series of the year. Netflix miniseries Unorthodox is loosely based on the memoir Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman, an ex-Hasidic Jewish woman who was raised in the Satmar community in Brooklyn and escaped to Berlin after her wedding.
19-year-old Esty runs away from her arranged marriage and catches a flight to Germany, where her estranged mother lives. Here she tries to navigate a secular life. A poignant and brave look at life within the very private Hasidic community is, at it's core, a coming of age story about dealing with relationships & finding your place in the world.
The Satmar community is renowned for it's closed-off world and traditionalist values. The community was founded by Holocaust survivors, and as a result the trauma runs very deep. From the sheitel wigs the women wear once married, to the glimpse at the hierarchy within the world, the filmmakers leaned on people with intimate knowledge of the community to guide their work and make sure that it was as close to the truth as possible. Some actors were also ex-Hasidic, with Yiddish as their first language which adds to the series' authenticity.
Israeli actress, Shira Haas, is outstanding as Esty, mesmerising to watch. Deliberately tiny, childlike, extremely frail-looking; we feel protective of her as we follow her journey. Berlin, with its juxtaposing dark history and inclusive, multicultural present offers her the chance to begin again. An incredibly fascinating world to watch onscreen.