Synopsis by Mark Deming
Filmmaker Paul Mazursky was having his annual eye checkup when his ophthalmologist told him about an annual religious celebration in the Ukrainian village of Uman, where twenty-five thousand Hassidic Jews from around the world come to observe Rosh Hashanah in the town that is the final resting place of the celebrated teacher and spiritual leader Rabbi Nachman (1772-1810). While raised in a Jewish household, Mazursky by his own word has little interest in religion; however, the more he heard about the yearly gathering, in which spiritual fellowship is accompanied by ecstatic singing, dancing and chanting, the more fascinated he became, and he decided to not only travel to Uman to witness the celebration, he brought along a small camera crew to capture it on film. Yippee: A Journey to Jewish Joy is a documentary -- Mazursky's first -- in which he offers a glimpse of the religious festival and the men who take part in it, as well as sharing stories of Rabbi Nachman's life and teachings, interviewing the non-Jewish residents of Uman as they observe the proceedings, and sharing his own thoughts as a "cultural" Jew. Yippee: A Journey to Jewish Joy received its North American debut at the 2007 Palm Springs International Film Festival.