Since the beginning of quarantine, you probably have had enough time to skim Netflix’s catalogue in its entirety between business meetings and yoga sessions you both do from your leaving-room. Then, you may have noticed this new German show – Unorthodox – among the ranking of the most-watched series on the platform. The show consists of only four episodes which recount Esty’s life, a young ultra-orthodox Jewish girl from New York who, one day, chooses to leave the community she grew in for Berlin. There, she hopes to live a fulfilling life free from religious duties.

Credit: Allociné

Inspired by Deborah Feldman’s autobiography entitled Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots (2012), Anna Winger and Alexa Karolinski decided to tell Esty’s life – a fictional character – through a very inspiring and moving show.

Esty is a nineteen-year-old young woman who grew up within the Satmar Hasidic community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She has never left New York, and strict religious precepts drive her life. Raised by her granny and her aunt, Esty enters into an arranged marriage with Yanki, a member of the same community. A year later, she decides to go to Berlin without leaving any trace. Once she has crossed the Atlantic Ocean, one can witness Esty’s metamorphosis who gradually learns how to reclaim her own body and who discovers new feelings of freedom, especially through music, a passion her community forbade her to practice.

Credit: Allociné

If some scenes can look a bit unlikely – this may be due to the program’s short format – Unorthodox still offers a heartening story about a brave and powerful woman. The Israeli actress Shira Haas wonderfully interprets the role of Esty in both English and Yiddish. She had already previously stood out by her talent and delicate performance in Shtisel, an Israeli television drama distributed by Netflix.

Credit: Allociné

Tonight, switch off your phone and assist to Esty’s rebirth through this poignant show … and be ready for a binge-watching session!

Article by Léah Boukobza

Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon changed the musical world, both on stage and on screen. The Fosse/Verdon series (FX) tells the story of the complicated love and successful artistic collaboration between the choreographer and his muse. 

Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell in Fosse/Verdon © FX

Two legends of the musical scene are brought back to life on screen, through the impressive performances of Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams, in the Fosse/Verdon series. They play Bob  Fosse, choreographer extraordinaire turned Cannes-celebrated director and Gwen Verdon, star actress of Broadway, his muse and an equally great artist. Fosse/Verdon came out in April 2019, and if you haven’t had time to watch it, take advantage of the rest of the summer. The eight-part series has been nominated 17 times at the Emmy Awards, which will take place in September.

A complicated love story

Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon met during the rehearsals for Damn Yankees! in 1955. Even though they were both in relationships at the time, they fell in love and got married. They had a stormy marriage and ended up separating but they never got divorced and kept on working together – and loving each other – until Fosse died of a heart attack in 1897. Together, they made some of the most admired Broadway musicals (Chicago…) and movies (Cabaret…) of the era. It’s this stormy love story between a driven, self-destructive and womanizing artist and a strong and very talented woman who is often forgotten, that is narrated in Fosse/Verdon. The series reads like an ode to the talent and inspiration of these two characters who changed Broadway while showcasing their deep personal struggles.

Fosse is the insufferable genius and Verdon the suffering woman who loves him and helps him even though he scorns her. But through the different time periods and the subtle performance of Michelle Williams, the series gets away from the cliche. In this post #MeToo world, Bob Fosse could have just been the one-dimensional powerful man treating badly the women around him and burning the candle at both ends (between substance abuse and working endlessly). But with the help of Nicole Fosse, Verdon and Fosse’s only child, the series becomes much more than that. The question of abuse (which both Verdon and Fosse were victims of) is central, and reflects an important question of today’s Hollywood scene. How do you break free from the cycle of abuse? Gwen Verdon is also given her due, not just as the muse of a brilliant choreographer but as the woman who supports him and as an artist who is central to the creation of Fosse’s masterpieces.

A constant back and forth in time

However, for viewers who have no clue about Fosse’s life, things can get blurry, especially at the beginning. Fosse/Verdon is using the same principle as Fosse himself did in Lenny (1974), jumping from one time-period to another (between 1955 and 1897). Since time is marked by a countdown to Fosse’s ineluctable death, the spectator can feel lost for a while, finding his footing in the amount of hair left on Rockwell’s head.

Nevertheless, the choreography, the familiar show tunes, the personal tragedies and the acting are more than enough to keep the viewer hooked on Fosse/Verdon.

Article by Juliette Cardinale