An unorthodox, unauthorized, history of the Jewish people and the Barbie doll…in about 18min.
What can the most successful doll on the planet show us about being Jewish today? Narrated by Peter Coyote, the film mixes old school narration with a new school visual style. The Tribe weaves together archival footage, graphics, animation, Barbie dioramas, and slam poetry to take audiences on an electric ride through the complex history of both the Barbie doll and the Jewish people- from Biblical times to present day. By tracing Barbie’s history, the film sheds light on the questions: What does it mean to be an American Jew today? What does it mean to be a member of any tribe in the 21st Century? The first documentary to reach #1 on iTunes, The Tribe premiered at Sundance, has won 17 awards, and is used in hundreds of Jewish and educational institutions around the world.
Unlike the majority of films made in LA, our film “The Tribe,” stars a gang of blond haired, blued-eyed ladies, who REALLY are made of plastic. Barbie dolls – to be exact. One of our shoots required over 100 dolls, spanning a variety of styles and ethnicities. In truth, “we had hardly any fashion budget,” and knew that due to circumstances beyond our control, we would have to return all the beautiful dolls (unharmed, of course) after using them in our shoot. Like kids in a candy store, we bought every doll they had, after which we so carefully stacked, jammed, squeezed and piled all of the pretty dolls, smiling beatifically into our little VW bug. With a cornucopia of dolls pushing out of every window, we managed to get into our seats. A less than discreetly horrified-looking woman walked by us and asked, “What are you doing?” Myself and my Assistant Director, Romy, turned to each other then looked at her and said, “Our friend’s child really likes Barbie.” Shocked, she said, “Well I hope she does.” We turned back and said, “He does,” driving off quickly.
Discussion with Director Tiffany Shlain and Supplemental Videos:
“The Tribe is funny, fresh and provocative. It’s a powerful, universal film that will surprise and challenge anyone who has wrestled with issues of faith, identity and history.”
– Roberta Munroe, Sundance Programmer
“Tribe is a brilliant, irreverent, wry and buoyant film about an icon of American culture, the WASPY Barbie doll and it’s creator a Jewish woman. The video is a stunning achievement and one of this year’s Black Maria Film Festival biggest and most worthy hits. I love this film and so do audiences.”
– John Columbus, Founder and Director, The Black Maria Film Festival
“Congratulations for The Tribe a concise and innovative statement about Jewish identity today. The spoken word poem knocked my socks off and made me cry. I feel like I no longer need to explain myself as a actively secular Jew, I can just tell them to see The Tribe. It says much of what I feel.”
-Janis Plotkin, Executive Director, Film Arts Foundation
“A smart, funny, witty film that gets at complex issues of Jewish identity in a very compelling and pithy manner.”
-Nancy Fishman, Director of Programming, SF Jewish Film Festival
“The Tribe juxtaposes a straight commentary with hilarious found footage graphics to get across a complex message in an entertaining way. The fast-paced clash of word and image makes you pay attention and think. Sergei Eisenstein’s intellectual montage lives!”
-Marilyn Fabe, Film Theory Scholar UC Berkeley
“A beautiful, entertaining film on an important subject.”
-Lynn Hershman, Artist & Filmmaker
“A colleague directed me to your magnificent The Tribe. It was awesome– the best presentation of the postmodern, deconstructed Judaism I see everywhere and in everyone, and it’s beautiful. Such a beautiful tohu vavohu out of which to create a new Eden!
“Congratulations on a magnificent and wonderfully accessible work of visual art! And Barbie will never be the same whenever I see her.”
-Rabbi Larry Pinsker
“I think it is great that serious artists are focusing their intelligence and imagination on what it means to be a Jew today. It stimulated a whole array of responses both intellectual and emotional. I look forward to your future work whatever its content.”
-Robert Sherman, Director, Bureau of Jewish Education
“I saw your film today–I direct the Jewish studies program at UVA, am an anthropologist who studies contemp Judaism–I was totally FASCINATED by your work–now, I am just figuring out how i can best share it with students and colleagues. bravo bravo.”
-Vanessa Ochs Ida and Nathan Kolodiz Director of Jewish Studies Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
“I just received a link to watch THE TRIBE on line. I can’t even express to you how much I LOVED this film!!!! It was immediately engaging, fun, funny, creative and, ultimately, deeply moving!!!! Thank you so much for sharing your art and your vision with the rest of us.”
-Dr. Sharone Rosen, DC Cantor, Temple Beth Torah, Granada Hills, CA
“First of all I want to say that I have watched your film and thought it was beautiful and genius made, it is an interesting perspective… My name is Galit Cohen and I serve as a community Shalicha in the UK Liverpool Jewish community center. I work for the Jewish Agency in a purpose to help the Jewish communities living in the Diaspora to maintain their connection to their heritage and to Israel. I arrived to the UK about 10 days ago and now I’m going through the procedure of planning my yearly goals and activities under this umbrella of “Jewish Identity”. I came across you film and as you can understand your film just falls right in to what I do. My goal is to work mainly with the younger generation, the youth and the students. I believe that we need to speak in their own language and to bring this idea of Israel to their natural environment, meaning, if I were to do an activity about the history of Israel I would find it hard to fill the seats, but if I were doing something combining contemporary music and films I would have a better chance to find the young peoples interest."
“What I was thinking is to show your movie as an introduction for the whole idea of Jewish identity; I think it would be great!!! So I was wondering if there is a way I can get a CD or video of this film and maybe you have other materials that you thing that can help me.”
-Galit Cohen Shalicha, Harold House, Liverpool Jewish youth & Community Center
“I want to heartily congratulate you on your film. I was so impressed. My fiance is a Reconstructionist Rabbi. I talked her ears off about the film when I got home. (She couldn’t attend-Friday night Services). She looks like ‘Reconstructionist Rabbi Barbie’. She looks forward to seeing The Tribe. Thanks for a wonderful film.”
“I teach an eighth grade course titled MEMBERS OF THE TRIBE at my temple (Suburban Temple – Kol Ami) in Cleveland, OH. I thought it was GREAT and would be a perfect addition to my class. It deals with all of the issues we’ve been discussing all year.”
-Justin Passov, Cleveland
“I’m working as a Shaliach form Israel in Minneapolis for USY the youth organizing of the Conservative movement. I saw the video of the Tribe and First of all I wanted to say that it is a great and excellent Video. There is so many things to think about after watching the video. I wondered if there is any possibility to get a copy of it for educational purposes. I’ll be very happy if it will be possible and I’m sure that we can achieve a lot of things with this movie.”
-Moshe Levi Shaliach, USY Mid-Continent Region
“I just watched your film online and am now thinking about who else should see it and how I’m going to use it as a teaching/outreach tool. I think you captured and framed so much with the juxtaposition of Barbie and the Jews, and with the many other questions that are raised by your piece.”
-Rabbi Philip Warmflash Executive Director, Jewish Outreach Partnership, Melrose Park, PA
“I just watched your video and I think it was excellent. I’m training to be a Jewish educator and I think that this would be a great film to show to high school students/my fellow university aged peers about Jewish identity. ”
“I just saw your film and think its wonderful. I’m very enthusiastic about your work in creating a new Jewish culture."
-David S. Ariel President, Siegal College
“OHMYGOD it was my life, an actual journal of my thoughts and personal history. It was an amazing film. I just saw it last night at the Black Mariah Film Festival.”
-Deborah Mosch Professor of Foundation Studies The Savannah College of Art and Design
“It’s terrific to see this kind of in-your-face Judaism with a meaningfully-different approach than others sometimes take. Keep up the great work!”
-Ethan Zoller, Seattle
“I heard about your film on Nextbook, and was intrigued enough to track it down online. I am so glad I did. I think it is remarkable, and have sent the url to our synagogue listserv, where the comments were very positive. Thank you so much for making this available to everyone to continue the American conversation about culture and tribe.”
“AMAZING. I was brought up in a kosher Conservative Jewish home, had a Bat Mitzvah and then ran away from my Judaism for many years. Your work really connected me to a very new perspective. I still have not found my tribe but I would like to renew the search…thanks for the push.”
-Aaron Ray, Audience member
“I LOVED IT!
“It was so poignant, touching, insightful, revealing, appealing and entertaining that I just had to go to your website, e-mail EVERYONE and tell them about it, and go through ALL the links in your page.
“The Tribe has such briskness, drama, humor, and mother****in’ attitude, I laughed, cried, and stared through the 18 minutes that just flew by.
I am a fellow Tribe member myself and believe me. It rang so true to home.
“Anyway, just wanted to congratulate you on an amazingly original and thought provoking piece of work.
“The Tribe is fabulous! I enjoyed it on too many levels to innumerate all of them here, but what I loved the most is your accurate dissection of the very important issue of Jewish Assimilation mixed with pop culture. Bravo! I know it will create some much needed dirt to be kicked up!”
-Miriam Goodman, Los Angeles
“As a Jew who left Egypt when I was 5 years old. Your film touched me.
“I remember one night my parents taking my brother and I to the Airport in Cairo. It was early morning, and you where able to see the anti-aircraft guns along the road. I sight that 50 years has not erased in my mind.
“To speak about Israel and disagree on the settlement in the occupied lands is a subject that you where not able to talk about with others Jews let alone someone not from the tribe.
“It is ok to question and to make sure we do not treat people as we where once treated, and we need to remember that.”
“Wow — just watched your film. Wow. Really, really well-done! Thank you so much for conceiving, producing and bringing this to the world (or Internet via Sundance.com, as the case may be). I’m forwarding this to many, many friends, most of whom, of course, are MOTs — this is too good and too important not to share.
“Thank you again and best wishes for continued success!”
“I just wanted to thank you for your work. The part which most struck me was the speech at the end where she talks about not looking or acting Jewish, and i have heard the tone more often than I would like to say. I, just like the woman in the movie often have no response when I am told that by others. You are so right when you ask the question what does Jewish look like? or What does Jewish act like? Your movie has made me think about a lot of things that I haven’t really pondered before. I have shown this film to a number of other graduate students and young professionals and it has sparked a lot of debate and conversation. Topics which would not have come up have been discussed at length.”
-Jamie Wald Vice President McGill MBA Student Association 2005-2006 McGill University, Montreal, Canada
“I, not a Jew, discovered this film through a friend of mine, a Jew, who looks like a Jew (to me, but then Jews and Italians and Greeks and Arabs and half the rest of the world look alike to me except for maybe skin color) and talks up his ‘Jewish’ connection freely and admirably.
“I am very impressed by this film. It is both entertaining and educational. I find it whimsical, sometimes sardonic, sometimes satirical, but always, dare I say, enlightening.
“The screenplay is supreme. The narration is superb. This gets an “A” for content, plot, development, substance, and creativity.
“And now that I’ve seen this film, the world will never look the same to me again.”
-John R. Carter, Sr., Mountain View, CA
“I watched your film and loved it. I’m not a film aficionado so I don’t won’t to go in to detail and end up sounding kooky, I just loved your film and forwarded off the link to a bunch of friends that are starving for something this enjoyable, received by e-mail.
“As the credits were rolling I was thinking of the pie chart used in your film and started to wonder how big the Jewish slice would be now in 2006 if there was never a Holocaust. What would the Jewish population be like now if those (more than) 6,000,000 people were never so horribly just erased from the earth and instead lived out their lives (as they should have)? If those that could have had children did, and then their children had children, etc. How different would the world be today? What would the state of Israel be like? Can you imagine how many comedians there would be? You could find a good pastrami sandwich in Idaho? I saw your film, so I know you have a sense of humor.
“Anyways, I wanted to know if you knew if this subject has ever been explored in a film before? I just wonder to what extent the subject may have already been explored or extrapolated. Any response would be appreciated.
“Thank you again for creating such an enjoyable film.”
“In addition to the film being (of course) very smartly conceived, interwoven with pertinent info and inventively designed, the evening was an eye-opener.”
“‘The Tribe’ – the documentary is really phenomenal. i was talking about it all night.”
“Incredible. I am forwarding the link to everyone I know. I am a Jew struggling with my Jewish identity. I converted to Mormon, because I could not connect with my “faith” in God through temple, etc. But the Jew inside me is strong, and lost. Along with my family and friends, your film has helped me begin to understand what I am going through, and put it in perspective. I am truly grateful that you made it, and that I not only saw it, but that I get to share it with people I know. Ain’t the Internet great!”
-Jim Bond, Utah
“An extraordinary film. One that’s riveting, amusing, enlightening and powerful! But one that is also quintessential. From Tiffany Shlain’s delightful direction and her and Ken Goldberg’s rapturous script – to Peter Coyote’s compelling and impeccable narration to Gil Gershoni’s deft and inventive art direction. Bravo to the entire Tribe tribe.”
– Edwin Heaven, Writer
Produced, Directed and Edited by
Tiffany Shlain & Ken Goldberg
“Hebrew Mamita” Written and Performed by
Music Composed by
Special Animations by
Stefan Nadelman & Carlton Evans
Sound Design & Rerecording Mixer
Additional Music Composed by
Dalan “The Magician” McNabola
Thomas Eugene Green
“Yismekhu Khosid’l” (trad., arr. Amy Zakar/TKD)
& “New Jersey Freylekhs” (Ben Holmes)
The Klez Dispensers
“Who Knows One?”
From the So Called Seder
So Called, featuring David Krakauer
Beatbox “Hava Negila” (trad., arr. Yuri Lane)
Dina Amsterdam, Bill Barnes, Marina Berlin,
Stellah DeVille, Carlton Evans, Amy Gershoni,
Ken Goldberg, Romy Itzigsohn, Misha Leybovich,
Emily Morse, Jen Naylor, Ian Schneider,
Jordan Shlain, BJ Wasserman, Adam Werbach
Make-up by Marina Berlin
Archival Images and Footage Provided by
Oddball Film & Video San Francisco
Craig Baldwin Archive
‘Diaspora’ photographs copyright Frédéric Brenner
Barbie Collection Provided by
Sandi Holder’s Doll Attic
Film Arts Foundation
Carlton Evans, Susan Stern, Romy Itzigsohn
Maya Draisin, Leonard Shlain, Ari Kelman,
Kimberly Brooks, Colin Weil, Ari Wallach,
Ann Goldberg, Elena Mann, Aldele Goldberg,
Cathy Brooks, Adam Werbach, Amichai Lau-Levi,
Dan Geller, Michael Kaminer, Yogi Graham,
Amy Gershoni, Rebecca Eisenberg, Curtis Smoler,
Sandi Dubowski, Rabbi Andy Bachman
Audio Post Production Facilities, Outpost Studios
Online Services, Elastic Creative
Dialogue & SFX Editor, Miik Dinko
Scheduling Goddess, Deldelp Medina
Prop Master, Molli Amara Simon
For Citizen Film:
Coordination, Katrina Drabkin
Kohn Intern, Ben Friend
Praxis Intern, Jordan Clement
*If the world were a tribe of 100 people” inspired by an anonymous email that began circulating sometime around 2000
In Memory of
Ella King Torrey
It takes a shtetl …special thanks to:
Carole Jaffe, Leonard Shlain, Odessa Simone, Kimberly Brooks, Jordan Shlain, Maya Draisin, Ann Goldberg, Ina Gyemant, Herb Jaffe, Lillian Rosenthal, Elena Mann, Adele Goldberg, Amy Gershoni, Rachel Levin, Roger Bennet,
Marla Steuer, Douglas Rushkoff, Amy Critchett, Meg Wagner, Felicia Herman, Joyce Linker, Betty Schafer, Dr. Debbie Findling, Mark Reisbaum, Susan Mall,
Roseann Levitt, Anita Wornick, Sue & Dick Wollack, Connie Shapiro, Dr. Judith Ginsberg, Sharna Goldseker, Lisa Goldberg, Barbara & Richard Rosenberg, Mirelle Silkoff, Jules Shell, Jon Kessleman, Mitchell Frank, Julie Hermelin, Lynn Newhouse Segal, Hiedi Zukerman-Jacobson, Dan Bern, David Henkin, Jennifer Elias, Beth Kelley, Bess Bendet, Suzanne Baird, Sandi Holder, Ron Alterovitz, Laura Lauder, Mark Itzigsohn, Rick Prelinger, Aaron Bisken, Marilyn Fabe, Arnie Baskin, Roberta Munroe, Sam Ball, Kate Stilley Steiner, Tamara Smart, Jerry Giaquinta, Davida Finger, Jon Rodrigues, Beth Kelley, Robert Chehoski, Craig Baldwin, Danielle Leeper, Ruben, Jessica Robins, Josh Crandall, Gilad Gershoni, Mickey Heimlich, Lisa Lepson, Simon Frankel, MJ Bogatin
*No Barbies were harmed in the making of this film
Barbie is a registered trademark of Mattel, Inc. This film is not in any way sponsored by or affiliated with Mattel. The film contains factual references to the creation and history of the Barbie doll.
The Tribe is a non-profit pursuit.
This project would not be possible without the generous support from the following people and foundations:
Roselyne Chroman Swig
Rosanne & Al Levitt
Barbara & Richard Rosenberg
Betty & Jack Schafer
Anita & Ronald Wornick
Joyce Linker, Sue & Richard Wollack, Joelle Steefel/Joelle Spitzer Philanthropic Fund, Robert & Michelle Friend Foundation, Nancy Grand, Connie & James Shapiro, Barbara Otto, Donny Linker, Kevin Linker, Dana Linker, Marilyn Waldman, Peter Yolles and Jill Einstein, Joe Epstein, Jeremy Kidson, Peter & Melanie Maier