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A young woman somewhat estranged from her extremely religious father decides to take a flight to Hungary in an effort to track down an old family heirloom and make her family proud.
Sounds like the synopsis for Reese Witherspoon's next rom-com, doesn't it?
Nope, Divan is a low-budget and low-key documentary piece about a woman named Pearl Gluck and the difficulties she's having with her Hasidic father. Not known as a culture that takes it lightly when one of their own "goes outside" the immediate family unit, the Hasidim will practically disown the children who don't stick to the rules.
But Pearl's got other plans. In an effort to show her father that she has a lot more respect for their family heritage than he might understand, Pearl sets off for Hungary, mainly to work on a fellowship grant, but she spends a lot of her free-time trying to track down this antiquated old couch that several venerated rabbis once slept upon. (Not at the same time.)
On the surface, Divan is about the quest for one dusty old couch. But what it's really about is the way in which new generations must come to terms with old-school religious adherence in an ever-modernizing world. And ultimately it's about the importance of connecting with your family, so that when the issue of faith-based lifestyle conflicts do arise, the head-butters can still take solace in the fact that, deep down, blood is thicker than wine -- regardless of who the wine's been blessed by.
Video: The documentary is presented in its original full frame format, and the picture quality is indie-flick rough, but easy enough on the eyes.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with optional subtitles in English and Yiddish.
Premieres is a 6-minute video medley of the film's various festival screenings and after-parties.
Back to Hungary is an 11-minute reel of deleted scenes, most of which focus on the Hungarian side of Pearl's story and a few post-screening Q&A sessions.
The Women (11:43) is another block of excised footage, this trio focusing on a few women and their experiences within Hasidic culture.
Bridging the Gap (9:35) is the final collection of cut footage, this one centering on more Q&A footage and a multi-faith discussion panel.
Also included is the original Divan theatrical trailer and foldout insert that comes with notes from the director.
A sly, sweet, and consistently enlightening documentary about family, love, and religion, Divan was a whole lot more engaging than I expected it to be. Hard to say what the Hasidic community might think of the film, but you certainly couldn't call it capricious or disrespectful.