Undergraduate Film Alumna Anna Winger '93 Releases 'Unorthodox' to Great Acclaim
BY Nina Mahesh, April 8, 2020
Columbia undergraduate alumna Anna Winger '93, along with Alexa Karolinski, created the acclaimed series Unorthodox, which premiered on Netflix March 26th, 2020. It has already reached Netflix’s Top 10 chart in the U.K, and accumulated an abundance of impressive reviews.
A 4-part series, Unorthodox is loosely based on Deborah Feldman's 2012 autobiography Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots. Unorthodox is the story of a woman’s escape from a suffocating religious community. In the show we follow Esty, a 19-year-old Jewish woman, who runs away from her arranged marriage and her community of Satmar Hasidic Jews, the ultra-Orthodox sect of Judaism that lives in self-imposed isolation from the outside world. She escapes the only world she knows, with the help of her unorthodox piano teacher, to Berlin, where her estranged mother lives. Esty tries to navigate a secular life and take classes at a music conservatory. Meanwhile, her husband, who finds out she is pregnant, travels to Berlin with his cousin, by order of their Rabbi, to find her.
Still from 'Unorthodox,' co-created by Anna Winger '93, image courtesy of 'Vulture'
The series debuted to much praise, with Jen Chaney from Vulture saying, “Unorthodox is a beautiful, immersive portrait of a woman’s rebirth.” Chaney goes on to say, “Thanks to the COVID-19 shutdown, we are all desperate to feel like we’re somewhere other than on our own couches. We want to be transported, to feel like we’re encountering new people, as opposed to no one other than our pets and houseplants. The new Netflix series Unorthodox is able to work that much-needed magic.”
James Poniewozik, from The New York Times, said, “What unfolds is a story of personal discovery with the intensity of a spy thriller. Esty’s escape is only part of the story of Unorthodox... The bigger and more captivating question is why she left and what she was fleeing.” Poniewozik goes on to say, “Unorthodox is, unambiguously, the story of a woman’s escape from a society that she finds suffocating and unsustaining. But it extends its curiosity and understanding to those who find Hasidic isolationism to be a refuge from a world that has continually been hostile to Jews.”
In Forbes, Sheena Scott best sums up the series with, “I would advise you to have four hours ahead of you free when you start this series, as you won’t be able to stop watching this spellbinding moving story of a young woman seeking her own sense of self.”
The Unorthodox trailer can be watched below.