Chanshi, an Israeli comedy drama set around a religious young New Yorker who flees her fiance and runs away to Israel, has been described by Jewish International Film Festival (JIFF) artistic director Eddie Tamir as one of the “hottest TV series” and a big coup for this year’s festival.
Written, created and starring Aleeza Chanowitz, along with co-director Aaron Geva and Mickey Triest, Chanshi appears to echo more than a few elements of Chanowitz’s own life, having grown up in Brooklyn in an observant Jewish household before moving to Jerusalem when she was 21.
The show is real and more than a little raunchy, with redheaded Chanowitz playing the fearless Chanshi, a bold, brash, frum twenty-something who will stop at nothing to meet her real beshert – hopefully a uniform-wearing Israeli soldier with a rifle and a heart of gold. Chanshi is supported in Jerusalem by Noki (Marnina Schon), her erstwhile best friend, along with the inimitable Henry Winkler appearing as her father, Tatty, in two episodes, as he tries to pin Chanshi down from afar.
This show is a twist on the world of the ultra-Orthodox, said Geva, depicting a side of Orthodox Jewish life that hasn’t been shown before.
“People think of the ultra-Orthodox as black and white, and depressing,” said Triest. “They don’t know about them being fashionable or into sex.”
It’s an entire world that Chanowitz knew intimately and which she introduced to her writing partners Geva and Triest.
“We didn’t know anything about it,” said Geva. “Aleeza really opened our eyes to this. There are so many kinds of religious people in Israel and in the US, it’s these micro-groups.”
The show couldn’t exist without Chanowitz, added Geva.
“She’s the DNA of this thing,” he said. “When you see her, it all connects. She breaks all the conventions of the genre. It’s fun to offer this kind of twist on this kind of character, to see what she’s capable of doing.”
With Times of Israel
Chanshi is screening as part of JIFF. For more information, visit jiff.com.au