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“Menashe” Is a Movie with a Wealth of Soul

Aug. 11 2017

Menashe is based loosely on the life of its lead actor, Menashe Lustig, who—like most of the film’s cast—is a ḥasidic Jew without prior acting experience. Set in the ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn enclave of Borough Park, and with dialogue almost entirely in Yiddish (with English subtitles), the film tells the story of a father struggling after his wife’s death to gain custody of his son. Jonathan Leaf writes in his review:

A movie that takes a sympathetic view of a faithful adherent to a Judeo-Christian religious group is as rare as a meteor from Pluto or a ski instructor in the Bahamas. It isn’t just improbable. Nowadays it’s nearly unheard of. Yet that’s what the remarkable new movie Menashe is. . . .

The group in which [its title character] lives really is a community. The word is not just a meaningless term in the service of political propaganda as it might be in an expression like the “arts community.” This means that Menashe respects its decisions. These are handed down by his elderly rabbi, his “ruv.” . . .

Menashe is relatively slow-moving and intimate, and its hero is a tubby, disheveled figure. There are no beautiful people in this movie and no action sequences. The opening credits of a typical Hollywood picture contain twenty times more violence and quite a bit more sex appeal. . . . Moreover, the movie’s production values are mostly below the level of video taken on a more recent generation of iPhone.

But Menashe has something sorely lacking from the overwhelming majority of mainstream movies: three-dimensional characters, a thoroughly plausible story, and a wealth of soul.

Read more at Scenes

More about: Arts & Culture, Film, Hasidism, Ultra-Orthodox

 

Getting It Right in Afghanistan

Aug. 23 2017

While praising the president’s announcement Monday night that the U.S. will be sending 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan, Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio express their “doubt [that] this will be enough to win the war.” They also warn against the dangers of a complete or partial American withdrawal and offer some strategic recommendations:

Al-Qaeda is still a significant problem in South Asia—a potentially big one. President Obama frequently claimed that al-Qaeda was “decimated” and a “shadow of its former self” in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That wasn’t true. The Obama administration’s counterterrorism campaign dealt significant blows to al-Qaeda’s leadership, disrupting the organization’s chain of command and interrupting its communications. But al-Qaeda took measures to outlast America’s drones and other tactics. The group survived the death of Osama bin Laden and, in many ways, grew. . . .

Al-Qaeda continues to fight under the Taliban’s banner as well. Its newest branch, Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, is deeply embedded in the Taliban-led insurgency. . . . There’s no question that Islamic State remains a serious problem in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but it still doesn’t threaten the Afghan government to the same degree that the Taliban/al-Qaeda axis does. . . .

Iran remains a problem, too. The Iranian government has supported the Taliban’s insurgency since 2001. Although this assistance is not as pronounced as Pakistan’s, it is meaningful. The U.S. government has also repeatedly noted that Iran hosts al-Qaeda’s “core facilitation pipeline,” which moves fighters, funds, and communications to and from South Asia. Any successful strategy for turning the Afghan war around will have to deal with the Iranian government’s nefarious role. The Russians are [also] on the opposite side of the Afghan war.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Iran, Taliban, U.S. Foreign policy