Private Project

Castles in the Sky

Living in a cloistered Hasidic milieu in Brooklyn, Malke is a Holocaust survivor and a beloved sex-ed teacher who has never been able to have children of her own. However, Malke has secretly been slamming poetry in New York's Lower East Side for the last three decades, defying all communal norms and laws. One day her transgressive pursuits are discovered by one of her bridal students. Is Malke willing to risk it all for her poetry?

The film includes live readings from poets such as Venus Thrash, Julia Kasdorf, and Everton Sylvester, as well as featuring poetry by Yermiyahu Ahron Taub and Esther Hoffman, as Malke's work and is an homage to the enduring, cross-cultural, and healing power of poetry. This is also Lynn Cohen's last performance before her passing in 2020.

  • Pearl Gluck
    Divan (2004), Where Is Joel Baum (2012), Junior (2017), The Turn Out (2018), Summer (2018)
  • Pearl Gluck
  • Daniel Finkelman
    Menashe (2017)
  • Lynn Cohen
    Key Cast
    Hunger Games, Munich, Vanya on 42nd Street, Sex and the City
  • Luzer Twersky
    Key Cast
    Felix and Meira, High Maintenance, Where Is Joel Baum
  • Melissa Weisz
    Key Cast
    Felix and Meira
  • Leland Krane
    Director of Photography
    Harry Haft, The Americans
  • Frank London
    Original Sountrack
  • Lisa Gutkin
    Original Sountrack
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    30 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    November 30, 2022
  • Production Budget:
    20,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English, Yiddish
  • Shooting Format:
    Sony Venice
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • New York Jewish Film Festival
    New York
    January 16, 2023
    World Premiere
  • Atlanta Jewish Film Festival
    Atlanta, Georgia
    United States
    January 16, 2023
  • Athens International Film and Video Film Festival
    United States
    April 12, 2023
  • Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival
    United States
    April 23, 2023
    Best of the Fest
  • Big Apple Film Festival
    New York
    United States
    May 23, 2023
Director Biography - Pearl Gluck

Pearl Gluck is a filmmaker with a blend of professional and teaching experience. Gluck’s work has been part of the Sundance Lab, Cannes, PBS, and won prizes such as Best Actor, Best Film,
Best Debut Feature and Best LGBT Short at festivals worldwide. Her first documentary feature, Divan (2004) opened theatrically at the Film Forum in NYC and premiered on the Sundance Channel. She teaches screenwriting and directing in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State University. Through her courses and her award-winning films she explores gender, class, and faith in cinema. Gluck is currently screening Castles in the Sky at film festivals, featuring Lynn Cohen. Her feature film, The Turn Out , which blends documentary and fiction storytelling to address the underreported issues of domestic sex trafficking at truck stops, is available on Amazon. Her short films are screening on platforms including KweliTV and Chaiflicks. She is currently developing a documentary feature on Sarah Schenirer.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

The film explores my relationship to my Hasidic past, the women who helped me form my own feminist interpretations of the faith, and my own history as a slam poet and slam hostess in the Lower East Side in the early ‘90s at the KGB Bar and the Nuyorican Poetry Café.

My own great aunt Malke, herself a survivor of the Holocaust, and herself unable to have children because of the experimentations in Auschwitz, would always warn me not to “build castles in the sky” with my artistic aspirations. What husband will want to support this life as a poet and artist that I have chosen, Malke would ask me, as she sipped her black coffee through her cubed sugar in the morning, secretly reading The New York Times cover to cover (before anyone in the family caught her engaging in secular pursuits). Malke was worried that I, too, would not have children if she continue in this seemingly peripheral path.

This project is my filmic approach to asking questions about sex education in the Hasidic world, the impact of survivors (and unethical experiments) on the next generation of women, and the hope for the integration of creative expression into a world so deeply informed by genocide and dogma.