Lower East Side
350 Grand Street, New York, NY 10002
F, J, M, Z to Delancey Street-Essex Street; B, D, Q to Grand Street
|8:30||Live Music by DeLeon|
|10:30||Filmmaker Q & A|
|11:30||After Party with FREE Radeberger Pilsner at Fontana's (105 Eldridge St.)|
Holy Rollers (Kevin Asch | New York | 89 min.)
Set in Williamsburg's Hasidic enclave, first-time director Kevin Asch's Holy Rollers offers a unique coming-of-age portrait while simultaneously pulling back the veil on the city's gritty drug trade. Jesse Eisenberg plays frustrated Brooklyn dweller Sam Gold, a young Orthodox Jew wilting under the pressure of his religious parents to get married and become a Rabbi. Sam's life gets more interesting when his suave neighbor Yosef (Justin Bartha) introduces him to an Israeli ecstasy dealer, which propels the disillusioned Hasid into a secular world filled with enough hedonistic opportunities to let him escape the burdens of home rituals. But is that what he really wants?
From its immersive opening sequence, Holy Rollers pulls us deep into insular world of the Orthodox Jewish lifestyle that has been imposed on Sam since his birth. Essentially a good kid, Sam initially resists the temptation to expand his horizons and enter a dangerous world. However, his business savvy elevates him to a kind of fast-paced industry he never expected to accept him. As Sam falls deeper into the trappings of the drug trade -- traveling the globe, frequenting parties and developing a fondness for like-minded Jewish rebel Rachel (Ari Graynor) -- he begins to question his newfound allegiances, although it might be too late for another exit strategy.
Asch, a New York native, directed the short film Characters and produced Point & Shoot, which played at the Tribeca Film Festival. In recent years, he has developed into a major new filmmaking talent in the Hollywood scene, a reputation boosted by his debut feature. His directorial style blends painstakingly assembled realism with endless forward-momentum, as evidenced by the way that Holy Rollers begins as a family drama before seamlessly delving into heartbreak and suspense. Asch fulfills the expectations of these genres while remaining true to the central conflict of the story, which continually returns to Sam's relationship with his relentlessly judgmental father, Mendel (Mark Ivanir). The older man's valiant attempts to support his family through a rickety clothing shop provide a touching contrast to Sam's struggle to support himself.
Predominantly shot throughout New York City, mainly on the Lower East Side and Brooklyn, Holy Rollers takes its premise from a true story and provides a fascinating glimpse at the inner workings of the city's Hasidic population as it has rarely appeared in contemporary cinema. Eisenberg (Adventureland) has played scores of young rebels over the course of his successful career, but Sam provides him with the unique challenge of portraying a naive character faced with a serious moral dilemma that could affect the rest of his life. Asch's exhaustive researching of the communities portrayed in the film comes to life with a moving narrative that neither condescends to its subjects nor passes judgment on them, but remains resolutely profound.
An official selection at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, the movie opens in New York on May 21.