Trembling Before G-d

Religion or ethnicity can seem cosmic to some people: I may laugh during The Godfather, Part II when the church organist at a baptism launches into Nino Rota’s theme music, but many other viewers would never bat an eye at this conceit. Sandi Simcha DuBowski’s 2001 documentary Trembling Before G-d explores the torment of devout Orthodox Jews who are homosexual and what their families and communities often do to them. But considering all the similarities between Islamic fundamentalism and Orthodox Judaismprohibitions about verbal and visual representation (exemplifed in both the film’s title and the way DuBowski blurs and darkens many people’s faces to protect their identities), certain kinds of wry humor and obligatory head covering, a taste for philosophical rumination, a shared misogyny and patriarchy, and a desert-climate sensualityI can’t see what prompts the film to limit its theme of sexual intolerance to one religion or ethnic group (or even one kind of sexual preference), apart from a certain unexamined tribalism of its own. That said, DuBowski focuses on religious faith as much as sexual preference, which may be the most interesting aspect of the film. In Hebrew and Yiddish with subtitles. 84 min. (JR)

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