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Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness 2011

NR CC
4.7 out of 5 stars (29) IMDb 6.8/10

A riveting portrait of the great writer whose stories became the basis of the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof. Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness tells the tale of the rebellious genius who created an entirely new literature.

Starring:
Rachel Dratch, Hillel Halkin
Runtime:
1 hour, 33 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Documentary
Director Joseph Dorman
Starring Rachel Dratch, Hillel Halkin
Supporting actors Jason Kravits, Dan Miron, Peter Riegert, Alan Rosenberg, David Roskies, Ruth Wisse
Studio Docurama
MPAA rating NR (Not Rated)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
1916, New York City. When he died, there were 200,000 Jews lined up everywhere, even on lamp posts, to commemorate him. America took notice that the Jewish community was large and could even be organized. It was now a political force to be reckoned with. There would not be a similar outpouring of grief in the city for a Jewish person until Leonard Bernstein passed away.

What makes this documentary so excellent is that it examines not only the personal life of Sholem Aleichem, but his impact on the world. It explains that he was the individual who "gave birth" to Yiddish literature. Of course, it was the language of the street Jew, known throughout Europe, but no one thought of using that vivid language as a literary form. (Israel chose Hebrew over Yiddish). Sholem Aleichem supported the new generation of Yiddish writers, and probably a million books were written in the language after him. He communicated uncommon enthusiasm for the common man....so both democracies and communist regimes celebrated his writing. One of the most fascinating aspects of his biography is that he did not teach his daughters Yiddish, considering that he was Yiddish people's leading light. He taught them German and Russian to make it easier for them to assimilate. Real treats in this documentary are the memories of Sholem Aleichem by his grandaughter.

He was a man whose fortunes truly fluctuated all the time...starting rich, then poor, then rich, then poor, then sick, then middle class. He failed in America, he succeeded in America. His humor, best known through his character "Tevye the Dairyman - is tinged with tragedy.
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Format: DVD
Although I am not Jewish, I have a healthy respect and appreciation for the world of theater that is all-encompassing. I grew up with "Fiddler on the Roof" being one of my favorite musicals, and I can't tell you how many interpretations of it that I have seen through the years. Truthfully, though, the writer whose stories inspired Teyve and his cohorts, Sholem Aleichem, was not a household name for me until recently. Last year, the Archive of American Television released two classic Yiddish dramas from David Susskind's Play of the Week anthology with one of them being "The World of Sholom Aleichem." This DVD featured three shorts (one of them not even by Alacheim) that started my fascination with the man and his invaluable cultural and artistic contributions. So when I saw the documentary feature by Jake Dorman, "Sholem Aleichem: Laughing In The Darkness," it helped to round out a more fully developed picture of his place in theater history.

With a wealth of archival material such as photos, old recordings, and video, "Sholem Aleichem: Laughing In The Darkness" packs a lot of information into its 93 minute presentation. Not only is there the expected history provided by narrator Alan Rosenberg, there are readings from celebrities Rachel Dratch, Jason Kravits and most noticeably Peter Riegert (who gives us Teyve). This isn't just about Aleichem as a man, though, but as an artist. His writings are explored in some depth with critical analysis by Yiddish experts who weigh in on the significance of what Aleichem was doing historically. In many ways, he was birthing a new cultural art form and bringing the ancient traditions into the modern world which is never an easy thing to do!
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Format: Amazon Video Verified Purchase
Whether you're Jewish or not, this movie beautifully addresses the immigrant background in almost all of our origins. As Americans, we embrace a great diversity of ethnic, cultural, and religious histories so consequently, we also share in our challenge of preserving these cultural heritages while assimilating into a diverse American society.

Sholem Aleichem reminds us of the incredible hardships, discrimination and violence that was such a prominent element of daily European life for Jews -- so much of it resulting from religious and ethnic identity. But he also reminds us how important humor is in managing and surviving difficulties. There's a poignant universality to this film and its theme.

Most definitely well worth seeing and seeing again regardless of your ethnic, racial, cultural or religious identity!
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
An important document for those of us with Eastern European heritage---and even more important for our children and grandchildren. Much of this was withheld by our parents and grandparents who came from Russia, Poland and Lithuania in their disdain of the "greenhorn" they felt they were, and their commitment to make a new life in the new land.
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Everything about this movie is great. It not only gives you the subject's biography, it also gives you samples of the author's writing so you have some idea of why he was great and why he was called the Jewish Mark Twain. It also puts his life and work into a social and literary context both then and now. (One of the experts interviewed, with a touch of irony worthy of the author, points out that Aleichem has done remarkably well since his death.) The documentary even captures Aleichem's remarkable ability to go outside of himself and see the world as other's see it. For example, his own experience of America was unsatisfactory and he found it unfortunate that he had to end his days there, but this did not stop him from understanding and appreciating the fact that a great many of his fellow Jews loved America and thrived there. You will especially enjoy this movie if you don't need to watch the closed captions, which were obviously composed by persons who have no knowledge of the Yiddish language, Jewish culture and religion-everything that this movie is about. Other than that, the people responsible for the captioning (I tried but could not find their "credit") do a terrific job.
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