The Jewish people invented Sholem Aleichem as he invented them. His greatness as a writer was founded on an uncanny ventriloquism—he conjured up characters through their distinctive voices and with the help of the richness of the Yiddish language, compared by one scholar to Elizabethan English. Thus, in addition to Sholem Aleichem, < i>Laughing in the Darkness focuses on his three greatest creations: the feckless speculator Menachem Mendl, irrepressible orphan boy Motl Peyse, and the humorously long-suffering dairyman Tevya. Analysis is provided by an informative cast of talking heads, including Sholem Aleichem’s granddaughter, the ageless Bel Kaufman; academic Yiddishists Dan Miron, David Roskies, and Ruth Wisse; and translator Hillel Halkin, who proves to be the movie’s sharpest, funniest, most Sholem Aleichem–like commentator. Additional substance comes from Dorman’s ongoing use of period photos and newsreel footage. In the spirit of the Sholem Aleichem oeuvre, Laughing in the Darkness is a collective family album.

Mafalda Melo
Shakespeare and the shtetl
Eve Annenberg
Shakespeare and the shtetl


Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish
Written and directed by Eve Annenberg
Opens July 8, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center

Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness
Written and directed by Joseph Dorman
International Film Circuit
Opens July 8, Lincoln Plaza

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