Michael Hayward's Blog

VIFF 2018: "Seder-Masochism"

Michael Hayward

Nina Paley is a one-woman powerhouse, willing to spend hours, days, months, and even years alone behind her computer screen, to create a visually rich, and highly musical, animated feature that offers her own personal take on the Exodus story, and on the Passover Seder, the Jewish ritual feast that marks the beginning of Passover. Seder-Masochism's official website gives the best synopsis of the film:

Loosely following a traditional Passover Seder, events from the Book of Exodus are retold by Moses, Aharon, the Angel of Death, Jesus, and the director’s own father. But there’s another side to this story: that of the Goddess, humankind’s original deity. Seder-Masochism resurrects the Great Mother in a tragic struggle against the forces of Patriarchy.

At the core of Seder-Masochism is Paley's animation of a conversation that she taped with her father in 2011, when he was in hospital, not long before he died. Paley depicts her father as God, complete with glow and a long, flowing beard and hair, but a God who is not above admitting that he still wishes that his daughter had completed her university degree.

The soundtrack for Seder-Masochism contains an amazingly eclectic mix of music, ranging from Led Zeppelin, Louis Armstrong and John Lennon to selections from Singin’ in the Rain (accompanied by scores of dancing goats); you can't help wondering how Paley could afford to buy the rights. In the Q&A which followed the screening, Paley provided the answer: she couldn't afford the rights, so all of the music in the film is either in the public domain, or (as with the Led Zeppelin and John Lennon tracks) was used without permission. Paley also spoke about her "free culture" activism, a movement which challenges the restrictions of current copyright law.

For this reason there will never be a DVD release of Seder-Masochism: you'll have to catch it somewhere on the film festival circuit (unfortunately, there are no more screenings of Seder-Masochism scheduled at this year's VIFF). Or: just be patient; Paley promises that, once the film has completed its tour of the festival circuit, she'll make the complete film available somewhere online (Paley estimated January or February of next year).



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