Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness


Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness-rm – If you only knew that Solomon Rabinowitz alias Sholem Aleichem had originated the story of Fiddler on the Roof, “that would have been enough.” However this documentary attempts to show how this creative Jewish writer born in Russia in 1860 singularly chose to use Yiddish, which was basically a spoken language of the shtetl and make it a literary form to educate and entertain thousands if not millions of people in Europe and the new world during most of his life time (and beyond). Yiddish was the special language of the Jews consisting of mixture of German, Russian, Hebrew and probably a lot more. It allowed more expression of feelings, especially humor and it was experienced as the language of the people. This fact plus the insight into the struggles and emotions of the people about whom Shloem Aleichem chose to write in a very prolific manner, made his writing very popular. This was the period of time when people living in their small enclaves began to migrate to the cities as well as across the ocean to America. When he died in 1916 there were more than 100,000 people at his funeral in New York which not only was viewed as a tribute to him but as a demonstration of the emerging Jewish culture in the new world.  This documentary while emphasizing his place as a writer and as a Jewish icon also provides some insight into the ups and downs of his life style, which included being a stock market speculator who ultimately failed in his financial dealings. It shows somewhat of a picture of his family life as a dedicated parent although it doesn’t say much about his wife and his marriage.  The visual story is made mostly with archived photos of the people of his time including what seemed to be a repetitive photo of him along with a few video clips- the most riveting being the one from Fiddler. This is an enlightening view of a person about whom so many of us have heard, but don’t really know. If it has not been done yet, a fictionalized version of this story with the details flushed out even more with some imagination, if necessary, will make a fantastic feature film. You can start speculating on who should play the lead. (2011)  

Category: 3 Stars, Biography, Documentary | Tags: , , , , , Comment »

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