Shlemiels and Shlemazels


“A shlemiel,” explains Matthew Menachem Feuer at the beginning of the new documentary Shlemiel, “is a dreamer. And his dreams don’t match up with reality.”

Feuer, a recent devotee of Orthodox Judaism, is the subject of the film. He’s also the crazy, flamboyant singer for a Toronto-area jam band–and a husband and father. As the film begins, shots of Feuer praying in his Hasidic synagogue contrast with footage of Feuer onstage with his band, dancing and singing like a maniac. He performs in black pants, a white shirt, and tzitzit, with his frenzied beard and wide-eyed demeanor in sharp contrast.

Feuer’s wife, holding their infant child over her shoulder–and looking, unlike Feuer, neat and composed–says she’s okay with her husband going out to rock clubs every night, “as long as he stays connected to his family and to Jewish values.” She flashes a worried look at the camera before adding, “He has to be careful.”

Feuer straddles two very different and often contradictory worlds. At his best, he’s an enigma, bringing the spirituality of Judaism together with the energy and ebullience of Toronto’s indie-rock scene. At worst, he’s constantly tempted by a world of debauchery and indulgence. This documentary shows the unflinching and unending conflict that he faces, being confronted with both.

Trailer 2 from Ilan Saragosti on Vimeo.

Recommended from JTA