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A Magical Realist dark comedy about mortality, mysticism and the metaphysics of facial hair in Hasidic Brooklyn.
A Magical Realist dark comedy about mortality, mysticism and the metaphysics of facial hair in Hasidic Brooklyn.
217 backers pledged $38,060 to help bring this project to life.

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TZADEIKIS ("Holy Woman") - A Short Film by Emily Cheeger project video thumbnail
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UPDATE: Thanks to your incredible generosity, we have reached our minimum funding goal with two weeks left to go! We are completely blown away by how quickly we were able to achieve this milestone, and are setting a stretch goal of $50,000, so we can pay more members of our crew, get better locations, and further invest in production design. Not a dollar will be wasted. Please keep sharing and backing - we cannot thank you enough!

After partaking of a fish at a rebbe’s reception that kills him when he chokes on a bone, Neshama, a young woman in Hasidic Boro Park, finds herself possessed. As her body and self begin to transform under this supernatural influence, her life and her community's status quo are turned upside down. Darkly humorous yet compassionate, performed in authentic Hasidic Yiddish (with English subtitles), the heart of the story is informed by finer points of Jewish law regulating female voices and male beards. Prepare for a wild ride!

Concept Illustration of The Rebbe of Kolnitz, digital collage by Emily Cheeger
Concept Illustration of The Rebbe of Kolnitz, digital collage by Emily Cheeger

Director's Statement

“Tzadeikis” is a Magical Realist dark comedy starring ex-Hasidic actors Melissa Weisz ("Félix and Meira," "Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish") and Luzer Twersky ("Félix and Meira," "Transparent," "High Maintenance," "One of Us"). The film anchors a fantastical story in realistic setting while exploring real-life issues impacting the lives of many Ultra Orthodox Jewish women. It’s 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; a culture strictly bound by Jewish law and yet, steeped in mystical traditions. 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. Everything from where the camera is placed, to animated dream sequences, will bring you deeper into Neshama's experience.

Concept Illustration of Neshama's Ecstatic Vision, digital collage by Emily Cheeger
Concept Illustration of Neshama's Ecstatic Vision, digital collage by Emily Cheeger

"Tzadeikis" is my thesis project at NYU’s Graduate Film Program, and quite personal to me. Throughout most of my time at NYU, I’ve been 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. My experiences, as well as countless stories of my friends and loved-ones, formed the foundation for “Tzadeikis." This is my most ambitious short to date!

Many films that have been made about Hasidim over the years have depicted the community with frustratingly little attention to cultural detail, failing to present the world accurately, affectionately and with dignity. With that in mind, it is of crucial importance to me to involve as many people as possible from the Hasidic and ex-Hasidic world in the making of this film  - 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. Together, we aim to make a film that can be enjoyed by everyone, whether you are a secular lover of cinema, grew up religious, Hasidic, or know nothing at all about Hasidic culture.

How Are We Going to Pull This Off?

I am thrilled to be working with producer Ashley George, director of photography Alfonso Jaramillo, actors  Melissa Weisz, Luzer Twersky, David Mandelbaum, Gera Sandler and Eli Rosen, as well as many others, to produce a film that will be both culturally authentic and artistically accomplished. We have a wonderful team for this project! Since "Tzadeikis" is a hefty short at a projected 24 minutes, and we are anticipating an eight day shoot, we need a budget to match! Equipment and production insurance will be provided by NYU, but we still need funding for many other aspects of the film. All money raised through Kickstarter will go towards paying our cast and crew, renting locations, keeping everyone fed and happy on set, transportation, wardrobe, hair and makeup, production design, payroll, post-production and festival submissions. We cannot make this happen without you! Help us bring "Tzadeikis" to life!

Meet The Team!

EMILY CHEEGER, Director

Emily is an M.F.A. candidate at NYU's Graduate Film Program. Her previous short films include "Charity, Adversity, Parvati," "The Last Blood Sings Softly" and "The Urn." 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 features, and worked in the prop departments of numerous television series, including "Mozart in The Jungle," "Master of None," "Maniac," "Gotham," and "Madam Secretary."

 ASHLEY GEORGE, Producer

Ashley is an award-winning director and producer based in New York. Current projects in development include comedy web series Run for Your Life, documentary series I am the T and feature documentary TRANS IN TRUMPLAND. Her work has exhibited at festivals such as HBO's NewFest, Chain Film Festival, Picture Farm Film Festival, GLITCH Film Festival, East Village Queer Film Festival, MIX NYC Experimental Queer Festival, National Queer Arts Festival, and Santa Cruz Film Festival. She's a Gemini firecracker in a sugar bowl and is a sucker for all things 90s. You can see her work at filmsbyashley.com.

ALFONSO JARAMILLO, Director of Photography

Having studied International Relations and Finance, Alfonso worked for NGOs and embassies in Sweden and Colombia in green tech and human rights. An interest in film led him to the MFA in Film at NYU, where he has directed the short films "Johnefe, 17" and "Volver" as well as done the cinematography for a dozen projects. He has also worked as set lighting technician on shows such as Gotham Daredevil, Quantico, Mozart in the Jungle and Bull. He is fluent in Spanish, English and Swedish.

MARGAUX MAEGHT, Production Designer

Margaux Maeght (margauxmaeght.com) is a stage & film designer and visual artist from Dunkerque (France). She had the chance to assist artists who influence her work including Matthew Barney and Monica Cook. She has worked as a production designer on numerous short films and a feature movie. Most recent theater credits: Dark Side, Macbeth, Babette's Feast, Dream Play, Balm in Gilead. Past education at NYU Tisch (Set Design MFA), University of Peloponnese/Greece & La Sorbonne/Paris.

MELISSA WEISZ, "Neshama"

Melissa is an actress, producer and native New Yorker. She is a native Yiddish speaker having grown up in Boro Park, Brooklyn, in a large Chasidish home.  Her credits include the films “Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish," "Blackstar" and "Felix and Meira" amongst others. She recently starred as Manke in the New Yiddish Rep's production of "God of Vengeance" which earned a NY times critics pick.  You can spot her in HBO’s High maintenance this season. www.melissaweisz.com

LUZER TWERSKY, "Shaye"

Luzer Twersky grew up as a native Yiddish speaker in Brooklyn to a Hasidic family. His stage credits include his stage debut in New Yiddish Rep’s God of Vengeance, Rhinoceros, and Awake and Sing! His film credits include the multiple-award-winning film Felix and Meira and the TV series “Transparent”. He appears in the new season of HBO’s “High Maintenance” and the upcoming indie film The Turn Out. His personal journey is featured in the Oscar-shortlisted Netflix film One of Us.

Risks and challenges

Film-making is a complex process with many moving parts and an exacting schedule. The big challenge of any director or producer is planning for any curve-balls that might come our way. Actors can get sick, locations can fall through, projected funding can be withdrawn, inclement weather can cause delays. However, our team is committed to planning for all eventualities and delivering a film that is sure to enlighten and inspire.

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    OUR GRATITUDE

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    WATCH "TZADEIKIS" ONLINE

    We'll send you a private link to WATCH THE MOVIE after its festival premiere.

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    WATCH THE FILM AND EXTRA FOOTAGE

    WATCH THE MOVIE and EXCLUSIVE BEHIND-THE-SCENES FOOTAGE, OUTTAKES AND EXTRAS online.

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    DIGITAL DOWNLOAD AND BOOKLET

    You'll receive a DIGITAL DOWNLOAD link for the movie after its festival premiere, access to online BEHIND-THE-SCENES MATERIAL, and a DIGITAL BOOKLET including pictures, interviews, and a digital copy of the SCRIPT.

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    TZADEIKIS READING & WATCH LIST

    We'll email you a list of select cast and crew's recommended reading and viewing materials. Find out which movies, books, articles inspired "Tzadeikis"!

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    LIMITED EDITION DIGITAL MIX TAPE

    Be the proud owner of a digital mix tape including original recordings of “Tzadeikis” cast members singing Hasidic songs in edition to original work by director Emily Cheeger, aka. Vuk.

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    SIGNED DVD

    Receive a private link to watch all STREAMING MATERIALS online and a SIGNED DVD of the film.

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    LUZER VOICEMAIL ANSWERING MESSAGE

    One of our co-stars, Luzer Twersky, will record an ANSWERING MESSAGE FOR YOUR VOICEMAIL BOX. He'll even sing, if you like! (...And he's a pro.) You'll also get a link to all STREAMING MATERIALS.

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    "TZADEIKIS" MOVIE POSTER

    Receive a DIGITAL DOWNLOAD of the film, all STREAMING MATERIALS, DIGITAL BOOKLET, and a limited-edition "TZADEIKIS" MOVIE POSTER, designed by Emily Cheeger. (You can take a look at the concept illustrations here and her previous poster designs on this page to see what's in store: http://emilycheegergraphics.tumblr.com/)

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    "TZADEIKIS" T-SHIRT

    Receive a LINK TO WATCH THE MOVIE and a T-SHIRT emblazoned with the title of the movie. Show everyone what a tzadeikis you are!

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    PRIVATE SCREENING PARTY

    Receive online access to all the STREAMING MATERIALS, DIGITAL BOOKLET, and an invitation to a PRIVATE SCREENING PARTY held before the festival release date in New York City. Another screening party will also be organized in Helsinki, Finland. (Backer will be responsible for any travel and lodging.)

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    SCREENING PARTY AND "THANK YOU" CREDIT

    Receive online access to all the STREAMING MATERIALS, DIGITAL BOOKLET, an invitation to a PRIVATE SCREENING PARTY in New York City or Helsinki, and a THANK YOU CREDIT at the end of the film. (Backer will be responsible for any travel and lodging.)

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    ONE-OF-A-KIND PHOTOS!

    We'll bring a disposable camera to set, with your name it, and shoot a roll of film especially for you! Then we'll mail you the exposed camera. You'll have one-of-a-kind behind the scenes shots from the set of "Tzadeikis"! Also includes online access view the film.

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    JOIN US ON SET AS A FEATURED EXTRA!

    Be a featured extra in role and scene(s) of Director's choosing depending on your availability in late February and early March. Must cover all travel expenses to attend film shoot in NYC.

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    SCREENWRITING WORKSHOP

    Receive ALL STREAMING MATERIALS, an invitation to the PRIVATE SCREENING PARTY, and attend a SCREENWRITING WORKSHOP with the director in New York City. (Backer will be responsible for any travel and lodging.)

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    SCRIPT FEEDBACK

    Receive all STREAMING MATERIALS, an invitation to the PRIVATE SCREENING PARTY, and PERSONAL FEEDBACK ON YOUR SHORT OR FEATURE SCRIPT from the director.

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    ASSOCIATE PRODUCER CREDIT

    Receive an ASSOCIATE PRODUCER CREDIT on the movie, in addition to a VIP INVITATION to the PRIVATE SCREENING in New York or Helsinki, all DIGITAL MATERIALS, a SIGNED DVD and SIGNED POSTER of the film.

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    EXECUTIVE PRODUCER CREDIT

    Receive an EXECUTIVE PRODUCER CREDIT on the movie, in addition to a VIP invitation to a PRIVATE SCREENING, all DIGITAL MATERIALS, a SIGNED DVD and SIGNED POSTER of the film. We'll also host a PRIVATE DINNER PARTY WITH THE CAST AND CREW in New York City for all executive producers!

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Funding period

- (30 days)