(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

FIDDLER'S JOURNEY TO THE BIG SCREEN, directed by Daniel Raim, and written by Daniel Raim and Michael Sragow, is more than a "making-of" documentary. The people involved with making the film talk not just about making the film, but their own backgrounds and emotions, and how they affected their work. The documentary covers backers' initial skepticism about the stage play, and the film, and then covers the making of the film from multiple points of view.

NOTE: See the movie before the documentary; it will not work as well the other way around. (On the other hand, it is probably unlikely that there will be many people who haven't seen the original film who would watch this.)

The film FIDDLER ON THE ROOF enhance the stage play with photographic views of the various lifestyles in Anatevka, beautifully brought to the screen by Norman Jewison. As one would expect, this documentary is illustrated by numerous clips that are familiar from the film,

It is worth noting that Jewison, his name notwithstanding, is not Jewish. In fact, he tells the story of growing up in Toronto with the other children in his school thinking he was Jewish. The various ramifications of that led him to a life of supporting social justice, so it is not surprising that one of his other Academy Award nominations was for IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT. (Another was for MOONSTRUCK, a film with many similarities to FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.)

Jewison had directed musical variety shows on television, a background that served him well while directing FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. He talks about the various people considered for Tevye (including some surprises). As it tells the story of each character being cast one feels like cheering for that casting. This is the story of Tevye the Milkman and his five daughters, but the only ones interviewed are the three oldest daughters, and the stories of their casting and experiences are interleaved, which does tend to make them less individualized.

John Williams was the musical director of the film, a fact not known by many. He is better-known for such little films as STAR WARS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, etc., etc. (Williams is considered the most popular film composer of all time.)

Other people involved in, or affecting, the production who are interviewed or discussed include production designer Robert Boyle, violinist Itzak Stern, Roman Vishniak, and Marc Chagall.

The Anatevka village they produced for the film seems almost overdone in its atmosphere of the Russian Jewish life of the time in which the film is set (1905 and the few years following).

In places this "making-of" documentary is as touching as the film itself. It is mentioned that the filming location, Yugoslavia, is no more, just as Anatevka is no more. What isn't mentioned (because the film was made too soon) is that this "Russian" village of Anatevka is actually in what is now Ukraine, and references to the area around Anatevka, and Kyiv specifically, as being in Russia, are both outdated and topical, as are the scenes of the Anatevkans being attacked by Russian troops and being forced out of their homes as exiles.

Released 04/29/21. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10.

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					Mark R. Leeper
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