Will Yiddish Film ‘The Pin’ Prick Audiences’ Interest?

This article was first published as ‘First Canadian Narrative Drama in Yiddish Debuts in NY’ in The Times of Israel.

The Pin #1

Milda Gecaite and Grisha Pasternak in ‘The Pin’. (photo credit: Courtesy of Main Street Films)

A new film opening this week in New York and Los Angeles is in a language most people — including the film’s director — don’t speak. Filmmaker Naomi Jaye didn’t know a word of Yiddish before making “The Pin,” but her artistic vision called for dialogue exclusively in mammeloshen.

“The Pin,” a love story set against a Holocaust backdrop, is the first Canadian cinematic narrative drama in Yiddish (with English subtitles). An intimate art house film with languid pacing and a deliberate style, it takes place almost entirely in a barn somewhere in Eastern Europe during the war. The exact time and place are undisclosed, and even the names of the two main characters are unknown.

The barn scenes are a flashback in the mind of an elderly shomer, who is asked to watch over a deceased woman’s body overnight until a woman attendant can prepare it for burial the next morning. The shomerrecognizes the corpse as the young woman he met while hiding in the barn, and with whom he fell in love before the two were permanently separated and left unaware of each other’s fates.

Not only does Jaye, a graduate of the Canadian Film Centre’s Directors’ Lab and a successful director of short films, not know Yiddish, she also has no direct relation to the Holocaust. Her grandparents were in England and South Africa during the war years. However, the film did emerge from the director’s family history. In the film, the shomer takes a pin and pricks the hand of his long-lost love. Jaye’s grandmother Leah, like the girl in the barn, had a fear of being buried alive and had asked her son, the filmmaker’s father, to prick her hand with a pin after she had died.

Jaye, 40, was uncompromising about authenticity and insisted on making the film in Yiddish despite the difficulties she faced in drumming up financial support for the production. Eventually, Daniel Bekerman of Scythia Films came on board as co-producer, and shooting began in April 2012 in and around Hamilton, Ontario.

“I am astounded by their performances,” Jaye says of the young actors who play the main characters. “Neither of them knew Yiddish coming in to the film, and by the end they were texting one another using Yiddish words.”

Click here to read more and view the film’s trailer.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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