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To reclaim an ancestral couch upon which esteemed rabbis slept, Pearl Gluck travels
from her Hasidic community in Brooklyn to her roots in Hungary. Along the way, a colorful cast of characters
gets involved the couch exporter, her ex-communist cousin in Budapest, a pair of
matchmakers, and a renegade group of formerly ultra-Orthodox Jews. Divan is a visual parable that offers
the possibility of personal reinvention and cultural re-upholstery.
For more information, email Pearl Gluck
It was my father who gave me my first video camera in 1996 as a gift for my trip to Hungary on a Fulbright
grant. Five years later we end up in an editing room together viewing footage for Divan, a film he does not
approve of and does not want to participate in. And yet, Divan is at its heart a father/daughter tale - he,
the unwilling protagonist, which makes me the unwilling antagonist.
In some ways, it should come as no surprise that I took up film to tell stories. The camera was always a
presence in my family history, my father behind the super 8, a silent witness to both dissolution of a
family and also its ultimate realignment. But, where I come from, it's not part of the norm to watch
movies, let alone create them, because it is considered a diversion from a life of piety, devotion, and
modesty. Hence, the paradox of my cinematic project: on the one hand, film has informed my entire life, on
the other hand, it was entirely forbidden.
Indeed it was in Hungary while conducting oral histories that my Hasidic past began to haunt me. The
ruptured trajectory of my own family kept returning. In awe of the ruins of the Hungarian Jewish landscape,
I was forced to confront my act of leaving the Hasidic community of my youth. Ever an ethnographer, I turned
the camera inward. When I finally got to my great great grandfather's house and saw the famous couch upon
which the Kossony rebbe slept, I saw the medium for understanding my own complex relationship with my
Hasidic legacy. The couch became a magical homage to the rebbes, a sacred memory object, and a concrete
tool for a personal and communal cultural archeology. It gave me the possibility of yearning, contemplating,
and reflecting on the world I left behind.
While grappling with this loaded legacy, I met other people who also left the Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox
world. Their voices form a chorus, that takes this film out of the realm of the strictly autobiographical and
into a larger communal narrative. By interweaving the elements of my personal story with the chorus as well as
the physicality of the couch itself, I sought to create a three-layered tapestry of a post-modern Hasidic
tale, embracing the elements of mystery, devotion, and joy. After a long journey across the Atlantic, the
divan emerges from its crate, and posits no easy resolution. Instead, I see it offering the possibility of
culturally re-upholstering the framework of "home vs. exile" with the richly textured fabric of engagement.
» Divan is currently available on DVD and for public screenings at universities, libraries, etc. Screenings can be accompanied by director Pearl Gluck by request and arrangement.
» Divan was screened at the 2001
Sundance Film Festival as a work-in-progress fellow for
the House of Docs. Divan was also a
Sundance Institute Production Lab
fellow under the mentorship of Vikram Jayanti
(VIXPIX), Lisa Heller (HBO),
Alice Myatt (PBS), Liz Manne, and Nicole Guillemet. Divan
received an in-kind fellowship at the Wexner Arts Center
in Columbus, Ohio.
» Divan is supported in part by the
New York State Council on the Arts, the
National Foundation for Jewish Culture's Fund for
Documentary Film, the Lucius and Eva Eastman Fund, the Sonya Staff Foundation, the
the Minnesota Film and TV Board,
Institute for International Education, Fulbright Scholar
Program, Reelworks Animation Studio,
Undertone Music, and
Splice Here. Divan is fiscally-sponsored by
The New York Foundation for the Arts.