My current research project, New Yiddish Cinema, investigates a 21st-century corpus of film and television created in a Jewish diaspora language that few of its creators, actors and viewers speak. The rapid expansion of Yiddish-language cinema in the 1930s in its European and American centres came to an abrupt end after the decimation of the Nazi Holocaust, which marked the rupture of a thousand years of Yiddish civilisation in Europe. After some seventy years of silence, some two dozen movies and television series with spoken Yiddish-language dialogue have appeared over the last twenty years in the United States, Canada, Israel, and Europe. These fall into four main areas: (1) Depictions of traditionalist Ultra-Orthodox Jews (Hasidim), who comprise the main group of daily speakers of the language today (e.g. the 2017 feature film, Menashe and the 2020 Netflix series, Unorthodox); (2) Representations of the Holocaust and its aftermath (e.g. The 2014 feature film, Di Shpilke/The Pin and the 2015 Oscar winning Son of Saul); (3) Movies where Yiddish is spoken to invoke the supernatural or haunted (e.g. the prologue to the 2009 Hollywood black-comedy drama, A Serious Man and the 2015 Polish horror movie, Demon); (4) Comedy, the smallest category due to the complications of transmitting humour via translation (e.g. the webseries YidLife Crisis, 2014-ongoing). Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the project examines this corpus of transnational cinema as well as the processes of film translation in the production and reception of cinema in a lesser-used language that is simultaneously undergoing revitalization in the areas of music, performance, teaching, and translation.
|Effective start/end date||1/04/18 → 31/12/19|