The Arty Semite

Friday Film: One Last Pin Prick

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share
Ronit Novak

Naomi Jaye does not speak a word of Yiddish, but that is not stopping her from making the first contemporary Yiddish-language feature film in Canada, and only the second in North America.

The 38-year old writer, director and producer is busy with pre-production on “The Pin,” which will begin filming in March 2012 in Toronto and the Ontario countryside. It tells the story of an embittered elderly shomer (a person who watches over dead bodies until they are buried) who fatefully encounters the corpse of his long-lost first love, Leah. The story flashes back to when the shomer and Leah hid together in a barn in Lithuania, fighting for survival during World War II. By encountering Leah this final time, the shomer, after a lifetime of regret, is able to fulfill a promise he once made to her. Terrified of being buried alive, she had asked him to prick her hand with a pin when she died to make sure she was really dead.

The story comes partially from Jaye’s own family history. The flashbacks to the Holocaust were not directly inspired by her grandparents’ experience, as they were in England and South Africa at the time. However, her grandmother Leah Jaye, like the Leah in the film, had a fear of being buried alive and had asked the filmmaker’s father to prick her hand with a pin.

Uncompromising about authenticity, Jaye has insisted from the beginning that it be a foreign language film with subtitles. “I am so annoyed, for instance, when actors speak in British-accented English in films set in ancient Greece,” she told The Arty Semite. She had originally assumed that the scenes taking place in Lithuania would be played in Lithuanian, but then realized that these Jewish characters would have spoken Yiddish.

From that point on, Jaye brought on Gloria Brumer, who teaches Yiddish at York University, to translate the script into Yiddish, and local Yiddish teacher Ana Berman as a dialogue coach. The actors playing the young lovers were required to audition in Yiddish, having learned their lines from transliterations and audio recordings. They are now in intensive Yiddish lessons with Berman, leading up to the beginning of filming. Jaye has been interviewing and auditioning eldery Yiddish-speaking actors for the role of the shomer, and has found the process to be “rather emotional.”

She said that it has been “a huge challenge” to produce “The Pin,” which she characterizes as “an art-house, quiet, languid, poetic love story film.” A graduate of the Canadian Film Centre’s Directors’ Lab and a successful director of short films, Jaye has been able to secure funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council. Some Jewish foundations and private funders are also backing the project, and she launched an IndieGoGo campaign.

There is enthusiastic interest in the film among Yiddish institutions in the Canadian community, including the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre in Montreal, and the Yiddish language and literature departments at York University and the University of Toronto. But the Yiddish piece has been a stumbling block in terms of getting broader support. “Industry people have had a hard time wrapping their head around the Yiddish,” Jaye said.

She is nonetheless determined to forge ahead with her vision. “It wouldn’t work in English,” she said adamantly. “Why water it down?”

Jaye feels that way about all her projects, most of which now deal with Jewish themes. She may have “dropped religion at 18,” and she, herself, may have not been raised in a Yiddish-speaking world, but she finds that “I can’t escape my genetic history. It bubbles up from my subconscious. I can’t get away from it.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yiddish Film, Yiddish, The Pin, Renee Ghert-Zand, Film, Naomi Jay

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.