Pearl Gluck's perspicacious and wacky documentary takes
us along on a quest to retrieve a family heirloom. From Brooklyn to Hungary, DIVAN is a parable about the process of seeking and a celebration of the Hasidic community the filmmaker left as a teenager. Gluck went to Hungary in 1996 on a Fulbright Scholarship to gather Hasidic stories. Along the journey she found her roots, a wealth of yiddishkeit, family and a special couch. According to family lore, her great, great-grandfather once owned a couch in Rohod, Hungary, upon which Hasidic rebbes slept. What begins as her simple quest for a sofa becomes a serious meditation on family, the Holocaust and religion. Gluck is comfortable in her life outside of orthodoxy, but is still nourished by its embrace. In Hungary and Poland we meet a colorful cast of characters: the couch salesman, Gluck's ex-communist cousin, a pair of matchmakers, and Hasidim on pilgrimage. Back in the States we meet Gluck's father and a zealous furniture upholsterer. A renegade group of former orthodox Jews are interspersed throughout the film; sitting on Gluck's couch in Brooklyn, they function as a Greek chorus. DIVAN intelligently weaves together the threads of memory, longing and cultural identity. At the end of this funny and wise chronicle, the director's father comes to her apartment in Manhattan to help her edit the film. While Gluck does not get the couch entirely on her own terms, she does get her father to travel the 8.2 miles from Brooklyn to Manhattan (for the first time in 15 years) to visit her on her own turf.
Pearl Gluck was awarded a 2000 Sundance Producer's Lab fellowship and a 2001 Sundance Festival mentorship. In addition to Divan, she was part of a group sound/video installation for backup.loungelab in November, 2002, and installed Trance with Basya Schechter for the Eldridge Street Project in New York for Spring 2003. She co-directed and co-produced the award-winning short, Great Balls of Fire (6 mins; 2001) which screened at Transmediale, Oberhausen, European Media Arts Festival, Ocularis, and the New York Video Festival at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Great Balls of Fire was awarded a Grand Jury award at No Dance 2002, a Juror's Choice Award at the ASU Museum of Arts and was featured for the DIG.IT Festival at the Walker Center for the Arts. Gluck was selected as one of the ten Women to Watch by Jewish Women's International. In 1996 she received a Fulbright grant to Hungary to collect Hasidic stories, was invited as an artist in residence at the Paideia Institute in Stockholm for the 2003 February Month of Arts. She and received a 1998 Mendel Racolin Memorial Research Scholar fellowship at YIVO. Gluck led workshops in Eastern Europe, London, and New York which focused on East European Jewish history and tradition. In addition she was a writer/mentor at the MacArthur-granted program, The Harlem Writers Crew. From 1995-1998, she was Fiction and Poetry Editor at Response Magazine, A Contemporary Jewish Review. She was the founder and curator of the New Jewish Voices poetry and fiction series for the Educational Alliance in 1995, and the literary and film programs at the JCC in Manhattan from 1999-2002. Gluck has been interviewed about her work on WBUR's The Connection with Chris Leiden in Boston and produced for WBAI. She has appeared in A Life Apart: Hasidism in America (1998; Directed and Produced by Oren Rudavsky and Menachem Daum). Her appearance in the film has encouraged grass-roots organization for an ex-Orthodox creative alliance. As one reviewer of The Boston Globe wrote, "Gluck deserves a documentary of her own."