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Burning Off the Page (film)
This fascinating documentary about Russian-born American Yiddish poet and fiction writer Celia Dropkin (1887–1956) celebrates her unabashed writing about the female body and sexual liberation. Considered radical during her lifetime, Dropkin shocked readers around the world with sexually explicit depictions of lust. Her work defied gender norms and complicated traditional narratives and boundaries. Her poems invoked violent and erotic imagery as well as Christian iconography to describe passion, yearning, and death. In this film, powerful dramatic readings, archival footage, historic recordings, and dazzling animations bring her pioneering poems to life.
Along with Dropkin’s descendants, director Eli Gorn interviews the crème de la crème of the Jewish artistic world: famous contemporary writers (poet Edward Hirsch, Michael Wex, and Irena Klepfisz), Yiddish translators (Kathryn Hellerstein, Sheva Zucker, and Zohar Weiman-Kelman) and musicians (the Klezmatics and Tsvey Brider). This chorus of voices captures Dropkin’s complex experiences, particularly her mental health issues and turbulent romantic relationships, including how her lovers attempted to undermine and take credit for her work. The film also shares excerpts from her letters and unpublished memoir, revealing intimate secrets. Her seductive writing ultimately provided a model for future generations of Jewish-American artists.
United States Premiere
Part of San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 43. Tickets $15 – $17.
Two showings: Vogue Theatre (San Francisco), Thursday, 7/27, 12:30pm and Piedmont Theatre (Oakland), Thursday, 8/3, 3:10pm. Note that 7/27 is Tishebov.