Experiencing Interruptions?

Tzadeikis - Holy Woman

After partaking of a fish that chokes her rebbe at a Friday night gathering, Neshama, a pious Hasidic woman living in Boro Park, Brooklyn, gradually realizes she has been possessed. As the rebbe’s voice and beard, regulated by very different Jewish laws than her own voice and hair, take an ever stronger hold over her body, Neshama must negotiate her identity, the expectations of her community and husband, as well as her own status as a person who no longer fits the clearly-cut categories ascribed to her by her religion and environment. Male and female, private and public, the revered and the rejected - all of these definitions are questioned when the rules of the mundane world no longer apply.

  • Emily Cheeger
  • Emily Cheeger
  • Ashley George
    Sometimes Forever, Diabla, All Hail Beth, Oh Jerome No, Disforia
  • Melissa Weisz
    Key Cast
  • Luzer Twersky
    Key Cast
    High Maintenance, Felix and Meira, One of Us
  • David Mandelbaum
    Key Cast
    "Rebbe Mordechai of Kolnitz"
  • Menashe Lustig
    Key Cast
  • Malky Goldman
    Key Cast
    The Vigil, High Maintenance
  • Gera Sandler
    Key Cast
  • Ari Hershkowitz
    Key Cast
    One of Us
  • Eli Rosen
    Key Cast
  • Hershy Fishman
    Key Cast
  • Pesach Eisen
    Key Cast
    High Maintenance
  • Yossi Weinberger
    Key Cast
  • Rose Gershkovich
    Key Cast
    "Rebbetzin Ruchel"
  • Anna Nahmani
    Key Cast
    "Mikvah Lady"
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Drama, Dark Comedy, Fantasy, Satire, Horror
  • Runtime:
    20 minutes 10 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    November 30, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    65,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
    Yes - NYU Graduate Film Program
  • Toronto Jewish Film Festival
    October 22, 2020
    Canadian Premiere
    Lishma Prize for Best Short Film
  • New York Jewish Film Festival
    New York
    United States
    January 13, 2021
    New York Premiere
  • Miami Jewish Film Festival
    United States
    April 14, 2021
    Florida Premiere
Director Biography - Emily Cheeger

Emily Cheeger is an M.F.A. graduate of NYU's Graduate Film Program, and received her B.A. from Yale University in Music and Multimedia Art. Born in Helsinki, Finland and raised in a multicultural family between Europe and the United States, her previous short films include "Charity, Adversity, Parvati" and "The Last Blood Sings Softly." In addition to directing "Tzadeikis," she is currently preparing her first feature film project, "Dancing At Two Weddings," also set in Hasidic Brooklyn. Emily has script supervised several feature films, and "The Neighbors' Window," a short film she script supervised, won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short in 2020. Emily is also an acclaimed recording artist, performing under the name Vuk and receiving over fifteen artistic working grants in Finland.

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Director Statement

“Tzadeikis,” is, on its surface, a Magical Realist dark comedy that anchors a fantastical story in realistic setting. However, on a more profound level, the film explores the hopes and fears, aspirations and frustrations of many women living within strictly patriarchal societies - not just Orthodox Jewish ones. It’s a story told through the eyes of a woman in a setting in which women’s voices, faces and bodies are not only holy, but becoming increasingly taboo: a meditation on the nature of the soul, a dissolution of the boundaries of identity, and a disruption of social hierarchy in a society where boundaries tend to be absolute. The roots of the film’s soul lie in Russian Modernist satires that seamlessly blend the magical with the satirical.

"Tzadeikis" is my thesis project at NYU’s Graduate Film Program, and perhaps surprisingly, quite personal to me. Much of my time at the program was spent writing stories set in the Hasidic world, spending months that turned into years of getting to know the community as thoroughly as I could as an outsider. Countless stories of my friends and loved-ones formed the foundation for “Tzadeikis,” as did my own experiences as a woman and professional artist who grew up in a secular, mixed Jewish family and came to the Orthodox world as an adult. “Tzadeikis” reflects my affection for this community, its people, its lore, mysticism and humor, but also my personal struggle to reconcile a primal need to create and express myself freely with a desire for a recognition of kinship in a society in which even a woman’s singing voice is forbidden to a man’s ears by law. I have been the woman squinting at the back of the rebbe’s neck through the partition. Some images in “Tzadeikis” have their origins in my reoccurring nightmares.

Many films that have been made about Hasidim over the years have depicted the community with frustratingly little attention to cultural detail. That is why every effort was made in the production of this film to involve as many people as possible from the Hasidic and ex-Hasidic world  - people who are more familiar with every cultural and linguistic nuance than I could ever be. "Tzadeikis" features a wide range of actors from local Hasidic communities and The New Yiddish Repertory Theater. My hope is that we have succeeded in creating a film that will have points of resonance for everyone, whether you are a secular lover of cinema, grew up religious, Hasidic, or know nothing at all about Hasidic culture.