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MORDECAI RICHLER: THE LAST OF THE WILD JEWS
New documentary profile of controversial Canadian novelist Mordecai Richler by Montreal filmmaker/journalist Francine Pelletier.
Mordecai Richler: The Last of the Wild Jews, premiering on Bravo! Sunday, December 19 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT , with a repeat broadcast on Saturday, December 25 at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT., is the new film from Motsjo Inc., a Montreal-based film production company owned by Francine Pelletier and David Sherman.
Scheduled to air just days before the release of Barney's Version, the film adaptation of Richler's beloved final novel, and on the heels of Charlie Foran's biography, Mordecai: The Life and Times, this Original Bravo! documentary sheds new light on Richler's persona as the bad boy of Canadian literature.
Mordecai Richler: The Last of the Wild Jews looks at Mordecai Richler, the man and the author, from a new perspective. It fixes him in the context of a particular North American Jewish identity, one that emerged from the immigrant ghettos of Montreal, New York and Chicago in the 1930s and 40s and burst onto the literary and cultural scene in the 1950s and 60s, dominating it till the end of the century.
Richler, Saul Bellow (Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Humboldt's Gift), Philip Roth (Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Pastoral), Norman Mailer (two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Armies of the Night and The Executioner's Song), Lenny Bruce (comedian and satirist) and and others. These were the self-declared "wild Jews", raised on comic-book superheroes (often created by Jews) and Holocaust vibrations, teachings of the Talmud and tales of the Golem of Prague, along with the galvanizing short stories of Isaak Babel about the vanished Odessa Jewish underworld. "When a Jew rides a horse," Babel wrote of his characters, "he stops being a Jew".
Coming from this background, it was probably unsurprising that Richler was a natural agitator and provocateur. Like his famous American counterparts, he had the courage to rattle the cage of the complacent and the sanctimonious while leaving an indelible mark on the society around them.
The documentary is packed full of candid conversations with famous Richler comrades like Margaret Atwood, Rex Murphy (Canadian commentator and author), Adam Gopnick (essayist and staff writer, The New Yorker), Louise Dennys (Executive Vice-President, Random House of Canada) and more. In conjunction with archival footage and lost photographs, including the private chronicles of wife Florence Richler, this visual portrait digs deep into the vault of Richler's life to thoroughly profile his Jewish upbringing in Quebec and the undeniable impact of the "Wild Jews" on North American culture.
The film was directed by Pelletier and produced by Mary Armstrong, a veteran documentary film producer, and David Sherman.
Pelletier has been a powerful voice in Canadian journalism for over 30 years working in English and French in print, radio and television. Co-founder and editor-in-chief of the women's monthly magazine La Vie en rose and co-host for five years of CBC 's flagship current affairs show, the fifth estate, Pelletier left the CBC in 2000 to concentrate on filmmaking. She has since made eight documentary films and one documentary series.
David Sherman is the author of several recent plays, including Have a Heart, The Daily Miracle, and Joe Louis: An American Romance, which opens in Montreal in January 2011. He is currently at work on a new play about the boîtes à chanson in Quebec and their role in that province's cultural and political history.
Pelletier and Sherman enlisted a talented team to help create this vivid portrait of a remarkable man and his times, including recent Richler biographer Charles Foran to collaborate on the script, film and TV veteran Mary Armstrong to help produce the film, editor Susan Shanks, DOP Stefan Nitoslawski, composers Keith Thomas, Jason Rosenblatt and the band Shtreiml, and narrator Guy Sprung.