When filmmaker Annie Berman posted an ad in the Craigslist “strictly platonic” section, she was looking for someone to give her some insight into the eruv in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for a project she was researching. When “Marty” (not his real name) answered the ad, the two began to speak on the phone, but it soon became clear that there was much more to talk about than a piece of string.
Berman has since made an experimental documentary and radio program called Of Birds and Boundaries. It’s less about the eruv and more about her developing rapport with Marty. The film uses distorted black-and-white scenes of Williamsburg, where both Marty and Berman live, along with recorded phone conversations between the two. The lines between filmmaker and subject blur, and Marty starts asking Berman questions: about secular life, dating, and college.
There are surprises in store for everyone: Annie can’t believe that Marty is only 25, and was 21 when he got married. And Marty is confused that Annie’s non-Hasidic roommate has a beard. It’s not always comfortable or easy to listen to, but whether you’re watching or listening, you might also be surprised at how much openness and vulnerability can exist between two strangers.
Listen to the radio program here.