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"I've got people saying what is your image? Who gives a fuck? I just play the role."  -Russell Crowe
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday July 19, 2018 

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Filmmaker Monique Schwartz examines the portrayal of Jewish mothers in a wide range of films. Interviewing directors, critics and other commentators, she questions the familiar image of the Jewish mother as loud, obnoxious and domineering, contrasting this stereotype with her very different memories of her own mother.

The best thing about Monique Schwarz's documentary on the Jewish mother in cinema is the way it yokes together several groups of films that aren't too well-known - silent melodramas about immigrant families, independent Yiddish-language productions of the 1930s, and the work of modern Israeli directors. A little surprisingly, Schwartz also spends a lot of time on forgotten mainstream comedies from the 60s and early 70s, such as Come Blow Your Horn, Goodbye Columbus and Where's Poppa? While Jewish creativity has always been central to Hollywood cinema, these were among the first films to deal explicitly with modern American Jewish life, following in the wake of playwrights like Neil Simon and novelists like Philip Roth. Viewed in this context, even the corniest formulas and stereotypes can be seen as derived from lived experience - a point that's often missed when Hollywood films are viewed solely as escapist fantasy. The clips and interviews here suggest that the most virulent caricatures of Jewish motherhood are often by filmmakers trying to distance themselves from their own ethnic (and working-class) roots. So how far is the stereotype of the overbearing Jewish mother a phantasm dreamed up by conflicted men, and how far does it speak to real social tensions? There's no simple answer; ultimately the topic is just too rich, opening up more territory than Schwarz has time to explore. For example, it's suggested that Jewish mothers have largely disappeared from contemporary Hollywood cinema, but there's no discussion of how they've persisted in TV shows like The Nanny, Seinfeld and South Park. An even more glaring absence is Woody Allen, who's surely mined this field as thoroughly as anyone (see his short film Oedipus Wrecks). There are other quibbles - some of the clips appear to be shown in the wrong format, and Schwartz's autobiographical musings don't add much. But in general this
is an intelligent and informative hour-and-a-quarter.
Jake Wilson

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DIRECTOR: Monique Schwarz

PRODUCER: Monique Schwarz


EDITOR: Uri Mizrahi

MUSIC: Martin Friedel

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Georgina Campbell

RUNNING TIME: 73 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: October 11, 2001 (Melbourne only; other states to follow)

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