I heard about the animated film Seder-Masochism directed by Nina Paley, while performing in a play about patriarchy. My director exclaimed: “Nina is interested in the same things as we are!” I thought the film must be about… creation of patriarchy, transition from Goddess to God worship in the ancient world, deconstruction of old myths… Turned out – yes, kind of and so much more. She said she had an extra ticket to the screening of “Seder-Masochism” in Lincoln Center but I couldn’t go. Luckily, the film was released free online January, 2019, as Nina is an “open culture” activist. What? I was hooked.
Seder is “a Jewish feast that marks the beginning of the holiday of Passover… performed by a community, involving a retelling of the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. This story is in the Book of Exodus in The Hebrew Bible.” [Wikipedia]
Seder-Masochism depicts Nina Paley’s Seder where Jesus instructs us on traditions of Seder celebration in an animated Last Supper painting, and God speaks with the voice of Nina’s terminally ill (now deceased) atheist father, trying his best to explain Passover to Nina, a sacrificial lamb. He fails often, before questioning Nina’s financial stability and changing into a one dollar bill.
Moses sings “Free to Be… You and Me”, Pharaoh sings “I Will Survive”, God and Goddess sing “Paroles paroles”, Jews and Egyptians sing.
Animated Goddess statues groove to “You Gotta Believe” (get yours here).
God is killing people.
People are killing Goddesses.
People are killing each other.
Many, many penises get circumcised.
Death sings “This Land is Mine”.
Did I mention it’s kind of a musical comedy? Or how irreverent it is? But also cares a lot? Visually breathtaking? Intellectually agitating?
To me, Seder-Masochism highlights the desperate need for unorthodox, inquisitive takes on all of our old narratives. It encourages a deeper understanding of how stories we tell ourselves make us who we are. It evokes childlike joy (and tears) with its feast of Goddess imagery, dance and music.