The Secret in Bubbie’s Attic
Produced and written by Eva Grayzel and Suri Levow-Krieger, Ergo Media, 1-800-695-3746. $24.95
This adorable 43-minute video (appropriate for the 3 to 10-year-old crowd) gets four stars for Levow-Krieger’s original, bouncy, non-sappy holiday songs (they should definitely be released in songbook form), as well as for the kids’-fort, backyard quality of the scenery—cardboard gardens and old-timey cheders [Hebrew schools] which look like they were knocked together by fifth graders during arts and crafts.
The acting, by Levow-Kreiger. Grayzel, and a group of real looking children (complete with frizzy hair, baby fat and gap-teeth), is earnest, amateurish and totally charming. Grayzel is a high-spirited, engaging storyteller, and Levow-Krieger is completely winning as a very camp Bubble, as well as a high-shund Impoverished Galitzianer widow who delivers her kvetchy lines while looking up, babushka-coiffed, from a severely mal-proportioned tag-board window. For haimish charm, you can’t beat this.
The story? A group of contemporary American children inadvertantly discover and unleash a Jewish genie from a suitcase in Bubble’s attic. The genie (played by Grayzel) turns out to tell great stories— of a beautiful cloth, of the rabbi from Nemerov, of a miniature Torah scroll which saves the lives of two Holocaust children, of a would-be shofar blower, of two boys (twins) who build a sukkah, and of some bebop Maccabees.
The very painful flip side of one’s delight in watching this video is that it is hyper-correctively non-feminist. Here we have two highly talented women, Grayzel and Levow-Krieger, cross-dressed through almost the entire film! Every one of the significant roles—from suburban rabbi to shofar-blower to farmer to scribe to tailor to student—are male, and most of them are played by females! It’s distressingly bizarre. One wonders why these parts (all of them, actually) were not written for females. Why does the intrepid attic-explorer role go to a boy while a girl entering the attic gets the dismal line. “All these cobwebs—my dress is getting dirty”?
Adult female roles are reduced to three walk-ons: Levow-Kreiger’s 30-second Bubbie; the cameo Galitzianer widow; and a mother whose entire scene consists of the line “Oy!” delivered to a noisy son. It’s bad enough to have, in real Jewish life, men who exclude women from significant roles—but why would two talented women conspire in this too?
Regardless, do show this delightful film to your children and/or classes, but offer, as running commentary, a feminist deconstruction. And don’t loan the film to anyone who doesn’t promise to do the same. Grayzel and Levow-Kreiger, you have so many gifts, how you could so forsake us?