Orthodox Hollywood director, Robin Garbose, will be screening her most recent film, “The Heart that Sings,” for female audiences in Chicago during Passover.
The movie musical is about a young Holocaust survivor named Miriam, who lives in New York in the 1950s and spends a summer at a girls camp in the Catskills as drama director. At first, the campers take advantage of her quiet, broken spirit, but in the end they transform each other in a magnificent way.
Garbose’s first film, “A Light for Greytowers,” was released three years ago and proved to be a hit, especially among Orthodox teenage girls. Set at a Victorian orphanage in England, a young girl, Miriam, is separated from her parents after escaping Czarist Russia. She must fight to keep Judaism in the orphanage under the rule of a cruel matron.
Garbose is creating a new genre in the world of women’s entertainment. Both her movie musicals feature Orthodox actresses, singers and dancers trained at Kol Neshama, a performing arts conservatory in Los Angeles, headed by Garbose.
Garbose says “we broke the ice with Greytowers” by ensuring the film screen to female-only audiences based on Jewish laws of modesty that allow women to sing and dance only for women. She is paving the way for young talented women to perform professionally in a way acceptable to Jewish tradition.
Even more, Garbose is bringing to the world films that employ messages of faith, hope and survival featuring strong voices of beautiful religious female characters who have previously never appeared on the big screen.
Fourteen-year-old Malka Kugel, who lives in Brooklyn, and plays one of the mean girls in “The Heart that Sings,” was never trained before attending Kol Neshama last summer. Kugel says she felt “like a professional actress” after merely seven weeks in the program.
“When we were filming, it was magical,” Kugel says. “Everything we were taught came together.”
Garbose hired a professional Hollywood crew to shoot at several locations in LA: a ranch on a far-out valley for exterior shots, an RV park for interiors and downtown LA for some New York-style architecture.
“There’s something so compelling about the character of Miriam,” Garbose said at the movies’ premiere at the Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn. “We’re not used to seeing a beautiful young woman with a number on her arm. It makes you experience the Holocaust in a new and emotional way.”
Before becoming Orthodox 21 years ago, Garbose began her career in theater, teaching at Juilliard and NYU, and directing 35 plays in LA and New York. She then dabbled in television, directing “Head of the Class” and then — as a Sabbath observant director — “America’s Most Wanted.”
A director for 27 years, Garbose says, “It’s time for authentic Jewish content to emerge in the world of film.”
“The Heart that Sings” will have its Chicago premiere at Congregation Shaarei Tzedek, 2832 W. Touhy, Chicago on Wednesday, April 20 at 9:30 p.m. and Saturday, April 23 at 9:30 p.m. For women and girls only. Tickets $15 at the door. For more information, call (773) 274-2223 or visit www.kolneshama.org.