Movie Review: One of Us

Due to a slim selection of good movies, I scrolled through Netflix to look for interesting movies to watch. I’ve seen a fair selection of movies but nothing jumps out to me, until I found this documentary about the Hasidic community which was something I’ve been interested in since my business trip in Montreal back in 2010.

The film was directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. Both are remarkable storytellers who have also co-directed another film Jesus Camp which won an Academy award for best documentary in 2006.

The movie revolves around three main characters, all former Hasidic Jews from Brooklyn. The viewers is given a taste of what Etty Ausch, Luzer Twersky and Ari Hershkowitz lives are like and the struggles they have to overcome to live a normal life outside of their community. I’ve seen some bits of the Hasidic culture from the movie Disobedience, but it wasn’t as thorough as this movie.

One of Us begins with a 911 call from Etty, a mother of seven kids and a victim of spousal abuse. She tells her story of how she became a wife and a mother at the age of 18. She recalls she didn’t know what sex is like and what pleasure is. Year after year she got pregnant until she realized one day that something isn’t right.

The other two characters of the film, Luzer and Ari didn’t face much intimidation compared to the experiences of Etty. Luzer is in his late 20’s, moved cross country to live a more liberal life. He has two kids and a wife. He realized that the life he’s living is not what he wanted. He reveals that the school doesn’t teach the children to survive in the real world if they decide to get out of the community, all of their connections will be cut off, you’re basically on your own. Some end up in jail or end up in a mental institution.

Ari is still in his teenage years. He was a victim of rape in an Orthodox summer camp. Along with his struggle with drug abuse, he tries to navigate the modern world searching for meaning, questioning his beliefs. His discovery of Wikipedia made him realize how unprepared he is to belong in the outside world and be part of society. More questions ensues.

Although the movie gives us different views of how each struggled, it didn’t fully explored the benefits of being in the community aside from the strong and powerful connections, having their own ambulance and school bus. It has some missing parts like, what are the things they had to learn outside of the community? Who helped them in the process of getting on their own two feet? Aside from these questions, the movie was well narrated for someone who is curious to know what the conservative Orthodox community is like.

After seeing this film, I’m curious to see what Jesus Camp is like which is another take on how communities seclude their members from the rest of the world.