Novelist Tzvi Fishman has discovered a new way of doing t’shuva (repentance) during this High Holiday season. He’s making a movie.
The Rambam (Maimonides) writes that to do complete repentance, a person has to go back to the place where he sinned and refrain from doing the same misdeeds which he did in the past. Fishman hasn’t gone back to Hollywood, but he has gone back to his old profession of making movies.
After a thirty year hiatus, he’s directing and producing a feature film starring Yehuda Barkan, Israel’s all-time box-office champ, and winner of this year’s prestigious Ofir Award for lifetime achievement in the Arts. The movie is based on four stories of the Hassidic Master Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, and it also stars Fishman’s old friend from Hollywood, Daniel Dayan, the fellow who got Tzvi interested in Torah way back then in Tinsel Town.
Fishman recalls: “Daniel was trying to be an actor back then. One day on the beach, he asked me why I didn’t know anything about Judaism. The question hit me on the head like a thunderbolt from out of the sky. I had learned about philosophy, world history, science, sociology, psychology, and art, but I never learned anything about the very thing that was closest to me. It was his question that got me started on a magical-mystery-tour voyage back to Torah and the Land of Israel.”
Today, Rabbi Daniel Dayan studies Torah all night in the kollel of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron, northern Israel, and teaches during the day. When Fishman felt the bug to return to filmmaking, he called his old friend, Daniel, and suggested they make a feature film out of the fairytale-like stories of Rebbe Nachman.
Being an experienced screenwriter, it didn’t take Fishman long to write a script, and he managed to raise enough money to put together a topnotch crew and start filming. The shooting has another four days to go after Sukkot, after Dayan and some other Breslov actors return from Rosh HaShanah in Uman, where Breslov hassidim travel each year to pray by Rebbe Nachman's grave.
“I asked them what they preferred – the world’s first movie of Rebbe Nachman stories or Rosh HaShanah in Uman? They all chose Uman, so we had to postpone the completion of the shooting,” Fishman relates.
He confesses that he is not a Hasid Breslov himself, and that he has never been to Uman. “We prayed 2,000 years to come back to Israel,” he explains. “To me, now that the Almighty has brought us back home, leaving the Holy Land for Russia is crazy.”
But he says that ever since he first read the stories of Rebbe Nachman, he wanted to make a movie of them. Recently, Fishman explains, he felt a need for a burst of creativity.
Fishman: “The last few years, I have been translating some very deep books relating to Rabbi Kook’s writings about the Redemption of Israel. Sitting at the computer, day after day, laboring over these texts made me fidgety. I wanted to find something more personally creative. Plus, I’m not getting any younger, so I said to myself, ‘If not now, when?’”
Fishman raised most of the money for the low-budget movie from family and his own savings. But, he is now turning to the public to raise the funds necessary to finish the film.
Fishman posted a five-minute trailer of some of the beautifully-filmed footage from what looks like a very fun and inspiring film. Click here for the trailer.
Fishman’s objective is to get people interested in Judaism.
“One of the stories is about a young prince who goes crazy and thinks he’s a turkey. He takes of his royal clothes and climbs under the table where he eats crumbs from the floor.
“All the magicians and wise men in the kingdom try to heal him, but only the Jewish Sage succeeds by getting down under the table with the youth and relating to him on his own level. In a way, that’s what I am trying to do with this film.”
Because one of Israel’s most famous actors, Yehuda Barkan, is among the stars, the film will probably be shown in movie theaters in Israel.
“I’m certain that the movie is going to be screened again and again in schools throughout Israel, as a way of getting kids more connected to Jewish roots and values,” says Fishman. “If viewers feel happy watching the film and learn some things about serving the Almighty, then I’ve done my job,” he adds.
The movie is called, “A Very Narrow Bridge,” after one of the most famous saying of Rebbe Nachman: “The whole world is a very narrow bridge, but the main thing is not to be afraid.”
What remains to be seen is – now that Fishman has climbed down under the table with his return to the movie business, will he be able to get himself back up?
Click here for more information about the movie.