ME­NASHE

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Me­nashe (Me­nashe Lustig) is a bum­bling gro­cery clerk in Brooklyn’s Bor­ough Park Ha­sidic com­mu­nity, a sad sack, a schlemiel, a tubby, di­sheveled man who gets no re­spect. He’s a re­cent wid­ower, strug­gling to re­tain cus­tody of his son Rieven (Ruben Ni­borski), who, by the de­cree of his rabbi, can­not be raised in a sin­gle-par­ent home. The story is closely based on Lustig’s own cir­cum­stances, and he and Ni­borski cre­ate a close and cred­i­ble bond. Aside from their re­la­tion­ship, the most rec­og­niz­ably hu­man in­ter­ac­tion is be­tween Me­nashe and his two His­panic co-work­ers at the kosher gro­cery. It’s not ex­actly a crit­i­cism of the rigid re­li­gios­ity of the Ha­sidic com­mu­nity, but it does sug­gest a wist­ful peek over the fence at the wider world be­yond. In his first fea­ture, doc­u­men­tar­ian Joshua Z. We­in­stein’s skills are most ev­i­dent in the film’salmost stealthy ob­ser­va­tion of a com­mu­nity that does not en­cour­age ex­po­sure to the out­side world. Not rated. 82 min­utes. In Yid­dish with sub­ti­tles. Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts. (Jonathan Richards)

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