‘The Binding of Itzik’ by Student Anika Benkov Performs on Festival Circuit
BY Felix van Kann, December 7, 2020
The Binding of Itzik, a short film written and directed by student Anika Benkov, is making waves on the festival circuit, playing worldwide at more than ten festivals either virtually or in a hybrid format. Benkov’s film has shown at the Oscar-qualifying POFF (Dark Nights) Shorts Festival, the Georgia Shorts Film Festival and the BAFTA-qualifying Norwich Film Festival among others and was awarded Best Film at Berlin Underground Film Festival and the Audience Choice Award at YoFiFest 2020 for Best Student Films. It also won a Completion Grant from the Jewish Film Institute.
In The Binding of Itzik, a middle aged Hasidic bookbinder stumbles across a craigslist ad offering 'binding lessons for submissive women' in his online search for bookbinding materials. He responds to it, becoming entangled in an emotionally intense BDSM relationship with a stranger on the internet.
“I'm so happy that this film is getting shown and recognized, especially during this period of the pandemic,” Benkov said. “This film was one of those scripts that I really went out on a limb to write—the subject of a kinky Hasidic man living out a fantasy as a submissive woman on craigslist felt risky, and as a nonbinary, queer person who's gone through the experience of coming out over the internet it also felt very vulnerable and exposed to write. So the overwhelming positivity the film has gotten in response, from my professors who've been supportive of it from the early phases through its editing, to the community of Hasidic artists who latched onto the story and invested time and energy and their talents into making it authentically their own, to the audiences who've followed it enthusiastically from its fundraising to festival runs, has all been very moving for me. It kind of affirms the lesson I've been trying to learn from my favorite filmmakers, and from my professors and talented peers at Columbia, that stories that are worth telling involve taking risks and really bringing your whole self to the story.”
Anika Benkov is a nonbinary playwright, filmmaker and performer based in NYC. They come to film through documentary, theatre, and creative fiction. In addition to being workshopped via NYSAF Filmmaker's Workshop, their film, The Bitter Pill was a semifinalist for the Sundance Development Lab. Benkov has had their pilot selected for the Sloan Screenplay Mentorship program at Columbia University.
The Binding of Itzik will screen next at the New York No Limits Film Series starting on December 9.