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:: Mamadrama

Jewish mothers are to comedy what smoked salmon is to bagels. They are an instantly recognisable stereotype, loud, complaining, smothering, illogical. ‘Mamadrama’ shows us just how long this stereotype has been around, from the silent era through to Hollywood. Yiddish and Israeli films, understandably, are much more varied and forgiving of the Jewish mother, and Schwarz uses the story of her own mother, a Holocaust survivor, to illustrate that Jewish mothers are not what they have so often been portrayed to be.

Schwarz has made several documentaries about the Jewish experience, ranging in subject from the Gulf War to surviving the Holocaust, and ‘Mamadrama’ seems to be by far her lightest. Unfortunately it takes the cliche, shows us some examples of it, and doesn’t push it much further than that. Even her own mother’s story was only hinted at. We are told she somehow rescued her husband from a concentration camp but we are given none of the details, the personal viewpoint of it.

Perhaps it was due to budget or copyright, but the examples of Jewish mothers in film seemed to stop in the seventies, no modern stereotypes were shown, though they do still proliferate, most famously of all, Jerry Seinfeld’s mother, a Jewish mother if ever there was one.

There are some interesting interviews with Hollywood directors: Paul Bogart who made Torch Song Trilogy, and Paul Mazursky (Down and Out in Beverly Hills), both of whom have based Jewish mother characters in their films on their own mothers. Both now admit that they made the characters much more grotesque than their real life counterparts. Overall, ‘Mamadrama’ suffers from a wealth of material but no real dramatic point.

Screening at Cinema Nova