I read a review on VosIzNeias and one on the Jerusalem Post (ht: Seraphic Secret) for a new film for women called “A Light for Greytowers”. It fascinated me: a girl is separated from her parents and sent to an orphanage where a cruel matron does not want her to keep her religion.
Just my luck (or was it hashgacha pratis, Divine Providence), I got to see the movie last night. It screened at a local synagogue, Congregation Ohav Emeth in Highland Park, to a full room of women and teenage girls. It turned out the movie was not just a Jane Eyre story re-created in Jewish form. It was also a musical, and a funny one at that! Some said it reminded them of Annie. I thought of Oliver Twist and “food, glorious, food.” Another friend said it evoked “The Little Princess”, Jewish style.
Here’s the plot as described on the Kol Neshama website:
This thrilling musical adventure follows Miriam Aronowitch from Czarist Russia to Victorian England where she and her mother, Anya, have taken refuge from the Cossack pogroms. When Anya becomes critically ill, however, twelve-year-old Miriam finds herself abandoned in an English orphanage — appropriately named Greytowers — and at the mercy of its cruel matron, Miss Agatha Grimshaw. Only the strength of her faith, imbued in her by her beloved mother, enables her to withstand the torments and bleakness of Greytowers and to rekindle the light of Judaism in the hearts of her young companions.
Some of my favorite scenes included one where the young orphan girls are being taught by a previous, kindlier matron on how to make brachos (blessings) on their food. Another, earlier in the film, depicts two silly sisters (who look like the aunts from James and the Giant Peach) singing to the girls about nutrition. The whole movie is a parody of many English stories, such as the scene where a captain’s wife comes to visit and sings of her loneliness. The woman who plays the cruel matron is a funny and fabulous actress.
And the movie has a happy ending, too!
I do have to say, however, that the emphasis on “gam zu letova”, this too is for the good, did get to me a bit. If one is using the film as a teaching tool, there really is no room for explaining the unhappy endings, which, unfortunately, do happen too often in life, especially in Jewish history.