Sholem Aleichem: Laughing In The Darkness Review and Trailer

“Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor.” – Sholem Aleichem

Director Joseph Dorman‘s biographical documentary of famed Jewish author, Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich (AKA Sholem Aleichem) is simple, matter-of-fact story telling.  Its undecorated presentation of interviews with historians and Rabinovich’s grandchild, along with archival photos at times made for dull viewing.  Thankfully, and for the sake of entertaining film watching, Rabinovich himself was not a dull man.

Rabinovich, or Aleichem, was perhaps most popularly known for his creation of Tevye the milkman, even though he was already an established author long before the creation of this character.  Tevye was a character Rabinovich would vist from time to time, and would eventualy become the conflicted father in Fiddler on the Roof.  Releasing original short tales of high-quality once a week for 25 years straight, his prolific output of literature was nothing short of extraordinary.  As impressive as that feat was, so to were the accolades aimed towards him by the film’s interviewees for his uncanny use of the Yiddish language — much the same way Shakespeare transformed and elevated the use of English.

This rags-to-riches-to-rags-and-then-back-to-riches-again account of Rabinovich’s life was at the very least informative.  I can honestly say I left this film with an enlightened education on one of the greatest Yiddish writers to ever live, as well as having a greater appreciation for the importance of preserving a language.  However, in my book, an informative bio-doc does not automatically guarantee a great film.

Sholem Aleichem: Laughing In The Darkness opens in San Francisco Friday, August 19th at the Opera Plaza.

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