AJFF: City of Joel
February 21, 20193:05pm
Small-town politics and ancient tradition collide deep in the Hudson Valley, in CITY OF JOEL, an absorbing account of a high-profile turf war between an ultra-Orthodox community and its neighbors. Located in rural upstate New York, Kiryas Joel is a modern shtetl in the town of Monroe, home to over 20,000 Yiddish-speaking Satmar sect members, one of the country's fastest growing Hasidic enclaves. With a burgeoning population, the reclusive residents seek to annex adjacent land and double the size of their footprint. This sparks a standoff between local activists who view more multi-family units as threatening the balance of political power and their way of life, and the Hasidim who believe the opposition is anti-Semitic and insist on a constitutional right to practice their religion. Shot over several years, Emmy-winning director Jesse Sweet observes the simmering tensions with respectful non-bias, to reveal the town’s divide as a microcosm of a divided nation.