Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Gay > Judaism > Trembling Before G-d (Documentary)

Trembling Before G-D   (Documentary)


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: B     Main program: B-



Some documentary works are not necessarily classics or even brilliant works, but still manage to open up a new school of thought and awareness of their subject.  Sandi Simcha Dubowski’s Trembling Before G-D (2001) boldly travels the world to deal with a long-hidden phenomenon.  Usually, when someone in religion comes to terms with their sexuality and it is homosexuality, they leave that life behind.  That is exactly what happens, for instance in A Very Natural Thing (the 1973 drama reviewed elsewhere on this site).  In this case, we find out about Jewish men and women who cling onto their beliefs, even if the doctrine of that faith advises against it.


The new double DVD set from New Yorker offers the original program on DVD 1, then offers a ton of valuable supplements that updates on DVD 2.  The program itself is somewhat shocking, depending on what you believed was the situation in strictly Jewish communities worldwide.  Of course, Gay and Lesbian people are in societies throughout the world, and the more their existence is openly denied, the more extreme and backwards that society is.  One organization has brought these people together for over a quarter century, but that is just the beginning.


The less you know about the Jewish Community, the more likely you are bound to miss vital points here.  This critic has enough friends of that leaning that more was caught than usual, though there are items only someone who has lived that life will get.  It is one thing to try to do a documentary about Judaism, because you have to make choices about how much to explain, and doing this about any Gay Community also offers great challenges, so ethnic are both, but to cover both in one program is even tougher, but director Dubowski pulls it off.


Some of it may be obvious, but unlike the shallow TV shows that (real or dramatized, though we can name several bad sitcoms), this program could not cut or sell the homosexuality short.  There is no ethnic whitewash of anyone here, because it is impossible to get away with, and for the two reasons already noted.  They say this has been changing people’s lives, and it is a classy work that we can all hope will continue to do so, challenging the status quo on several levels.  The shallow, reactionary response is shown throughout, with people bashing the openly Gay and Lesbian Jewish followers.  They say that they are living a lie; contradictory lives, but never consider the possibility of a gray area.  They also cannot deny that these people simply exist, whether they like it, agree with it, or not.  Theologians can go off into their own diatribes about this, pro or con, but this critic is not qualified for that.


The program was taped worldwide in what looks like the PAL format, actually here in anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 framing.  That was a surprise, but the result is still a bit softer than expected.  Age of the tape system and/or various equipment used in that format may be a factor, but at least it is a direct tape transfer to a video master for DVD, skipping the film print step that brought it to movie houses worldwide.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is recorded in SR Surround and is not bad for a documentary.


Though there are no extras on the first DVD, the second one is loaded with them, actually enhancing and surpassing what the program established.  There is Dubowski’s taped 15-minutes short Tomboychik, an interview with him, then one where he is joined by editor Susan Korda, a trailer, the deleted scene Sara and her Kids, the

trailer, five subsections revisiting Rabbis from the main feature, a making-of featurette, and many other bits that will make more sense after watching DVD 1.  The final feature to note is the resources section, which offers phone numbers, addresses, e-mail addresses, and more.  New Yorker did such a good job on this with their DVD of Life + Debt (also covered on this site,) that you know this is library caliber.


Reactionaries will also say the title might be anti-religious or plain atheist, but the “G-d” really has to do with the belief in Judaism that the name of God is too high to be spoken.  This is the kind of ignorance that has stood for too long.  Trembling Before G-D is another stripping away of such thinking, now ready for a whole new audience on a fine DVD set.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com