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Film Review: Esther in Wonderland
by Karen Pecota

Filmmaker Stephanie Bollag prides herself in narratives that explore colliding cultures. In her latest short narrative Esther in Wonderland, Bollag portrays a young Hasidic women who finds herself in that space in-between two opposite cultures she finds both attractive.

Bollag says, "As a second-generation immigrant, I am interested in identity and the excavation of the "self" amidst societal and cultural norms." She adds, " As a result, my films are roadmaps of conflicting emotional and physical expression that occupies that space "in-between." Continuing, "Like all my leading female protagonists, Esther exists in a place of longing, guilt and loss but also desire, pleasure and possibility." Bollag concludes, "She might not yet know where she is headed, but she sure feels the urge to unshackle and express herself."


Esther (Naian Gonzalez Norvind) lives in the Crown Heights community under racial tensions in the 1990s. As a young married Hasidic woman she is compelled to step outside her strict existence and jump into a world of hip hop and breakdance where no boundaries exist. The freedom to express one's self using this art form woos Esther.

Once her devout husband leaves for the day to study, Esther exits their home to a secret place of refuge. On a local rooftop Esther goes to meet up with a peer group of female break dancers to enjoy moments with no boundaries. What Esther does , her found secret place is a response quite remarkable.