Unspoken follows the story of Noam, a closeted teenager in a religious community who discovers that he might not be alone. When he finds a love letter written to his grandfather by another man before the Holocaust, he sets out to find this mysterious person and uncover his grandfather's identity as well as his own.
Homosexuality wasn’t decriminalized in Germany until over 20 years after World War Two. There were gay men that were liberated from concentration camps and then put straight back into jail to continue the rest of their ‘sentences.'
This shocking piece of information, and the fact that most people have never heard it, is the context behind Unspoken. Noam and Jonah are in the midst of a research project for Jewish History class when they discover this history of persecution they had never heard of in their twelve years of Holocaust education. It's one thing to not have in-depth knowledge of the Holocaust; it's another to learn about the subject every year and not hear one mention of the word gay.
The erasure of this history, while shocking, resonates with Noam’s experience. As a closeted high-school senior in his religious community, he is familiar with the taboo around homosexuality. There are no openly LGBTQ individuals in his life, and if there were they would be forced out of his community. His sexuality and his religion are at complete odds.
Noam first begins to examine his situation when he makes a discovery about his grandfather. He finds a love letter from before the Holocaust, written to his grandfather by another man. Noam sets out to find this mysterious author, in the hopes of uncovering his grandfather's true identity and perhaps his own.
Noam teams up with his classmate Jonah, and in the process discovers how the silencing of gay persecution directly mirrors the silencing of gay voices in the Modern Orthodox community. As he learns more about his grandfather's secret, Noam realizes he will ultimately have to face his own.
Unspoken is currently in post-production, which means we are finally editing together the film! The videos and images currently on our website are from our fundraising campaign in 2021, which helped get the project to where we are today. A special thank you to Benji Dell, Spencer Levin, and Kory Getman for helping that trailer come to life!
As we continue to fundraise for this last stage of production, we are slowly beginning the process of putting the final film together. If you would like to contribute to the project and become a part of this film, please follow the link below -
"I was raised in a Modern Orthodox Jewish community in Cleveland, Ohio, which made coming out as gay difficult. Homosexuality is taboo in the Orthodox world and many rabbis and Jewish organizations get pushback for simply talking about the subject. When I came to the realization about my own sexuality, I had to wait until leaving my hometown for college until I felt comfortable telling others.
"I studied film production and directing in college, and always shied away from broaching my personal story in my art. But very slowly, both religion and sexual identity began to creep into my films. At the same time, I was also becoming more active in Jewish LGBTQ organizations and in advocating for change within the Orthodox Jewish world. I spoke in Orthodox communities about the struggles of being gay, and partnered with organizations to create social and support groups for queer individuals from Orthodox backgrounds. It soon became clear to me that the best way to create social change was to integrate my work in the Orthodox LGBTQ world with my work in film.
"Boxes was the first project to emerge from this realization. It is a short film that follows a Holocaust survivor and her gay granddaughter, each of whom is hiding her own secrets. I wrote the script based on the actual experience of a friend who, after her grandmother passed away, discovered an unknown marriage certificate from before her grandmother had survived the Holocaust. While screening ‘Boxes’ at various events and festivals, it became apparent that there is a lack of knowledge and understanding about LGBTQ persecution in general, but specifically in the Holocaust. I began to see a parallel between the way queer stories are forcefully hidden in the Orthodox world today, and the way they were systematically hidden during and after World War II.
"That is where Unspoken comes into play. The film provides a specific glimpse into my own upbringing and culture, but in a manner that hopefully mirrors the general struggles endured by queer people in religious communities both past and present. My goal is to tell a story that welcomes audiences into a place of compassion and understanding about an issue that is still so taboo in the Modern Orthodox world.
"Unspoken is not just a queer film, nor is it a religious film. It’s a coming-of-age story about a young adult who is struggling to understand his own identity and where he fits into the world. Noam’s journey of self-discovery is one that we all go through, and his search for acceptance is something that all audiences will understand."