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DVD from the Brooks Brothers

The Yankeles is a lighthearted and fun film about Jews and baseball.
Judaism and baseball have enjoyed a long and nearly symbiotic history.  Judaism has turned out many a world-class baseball player as well as fans who follow the sport almost as devoutly as they do their religion.  Baseball in turn has given Jews something to kvetch about and grow closer with.
Orange County-based DZB Productions pays homage to this mutual love in the film The Yankles, a feel-good comedy-drama about a team of Orthodox Jewish baseball players who earn a place to compete in the college world series.  The team is coached by an ex-pro major league player, Charlie Jones, out on parole for several DUI convictions, who, shunned by society, can only find an opportunity for a second chance – and to fulfill his community service – in the form of the Yankles.  The movie focuses on the Yankles’ quest for success in the game as well as Charlie’s quest to reconstruct his shattered reputation and broken relationships.
“The film is funny, but not a farce,” explained Zev Brooks, Temple Beth Emet cantor, DZB Productions co-founder and brother of the director, David Brooks.  “It treats Jewish content respectfully and in the context of something wholly American like baseball.  There are many excellent films with Jewish content, but in so many, Jews are portrayed as victims, like Holocaust films, or they center around Israeli politics, or Judaism itself – the faith, the practice – is belittled.  The Yankles is meant to make Jews feel good about being Jewish, regardless of denomination or level of observance.”
“My brother Zev and I began writing The Yankles script with the expectation of creating a high concept comedy,” said David Brooks, “but intentionally crafted the story and characters to avoid playing on cheap stereotypes that poke fun at the Orthodox community.  Our sensitivity stemmed from the fact that our father is a rabbi who was raised in the Orthodox section of Brooklyn, and that our uncle is the head of an Orthodox yeshiva in Philadelphia.  Zev and I also attended Orthodox day schools in our youth, and Zev currently works as a cantor at a synagogue.”
The brothers’ goal for the movie, Zev said, is for Jewish audiences to come away with a sense of pride and joy at being Jewish, rather than commiseration he said many other movies instill in its Jewish viewers – usually by drawing on Holocaust-like themes.  For non-Jewish audiences, the brothers hope to both enlighten about the Orthodox Jewish community and entertain.
The brothers have overcome many different hurdles and roadblocks in getting The Yankles to finally succeed.  They submitted the movie to many different film festivals, including Sundance, Newport Beach, and South By Southwest, but time and again they received rejection letters.  Zev admitted the process was “discouraging and frustrating at times,” but the brothers pushed on, eventually getting the film to be accepted to the 2010 Croatia Jewish Film Festival, the first of many different festivals to request the film be played.  The brothers were introduced to a former Hollywood executive they were told would be able to help get the ball rolling on the film’s distribution in the beginning of 2011, but after seven months of non-responsiveness from the executive, the brothers were forced to part ways with him and found themselves back at square one.  Zev’s tenacity held, however, and after contacting every major studio with the simple request of submitting a screener for the film, found acceptance with Magnolia Pictures.
The Yankles was finished in late 2009, and since then has played across the US – twenty-one states and fifty-one cities – and internationally – seven countries – to great critical acclaim.  It’s won nine awards at several different film festivals.  The Yankles was selected as one of the 25 greatest baseball movies of all time by Orange County Register readers.  (It came in at No. 22 ahead of Money Ball).
It will be available for purchase on June 5 at many different retailers like Amazon, Target, Best Buy and Barnes&Noble.
“It is a small miracle that two brothers who sat around the table one Shabbat in 1995 with just an idea were able to turn it into a film that has played globally and is now being distributed by a major studio,” Zev said.  “It was not at all easy, and the obstacles were tremendous, but we kept at it.  We take pride in knowing that regardless of how successful the film is in the marketplace, The Yankles will bring joy into people’s lives.”

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