Where are all the Jews? Jews and Jewish representation in UK popular culture
Sponsored by the Detroit Jewish Book Fair, Lenore Marwil Detroit Jewish Film Festival, and SAJE (Seminars for Adult Jewish Enrichment)
Join author Howard Jacobson, screenwriter Martin Stellman, the Detroit Film Theatre’s Elliot Wilhelm, and the JCC’s Jaemi Loeb as they discuss the place of the UK’s Jews in media and popular culture.
Representations of Jews are somewhat rare in UK popular culture. Especially when compared to American popular culture, where Seinfeld and Mel Brooks references are part of everyday speech, mainstream UK culture seems strangely lacking in Jewish influence. Jews have been part of society in the British isles for a thousand years, so where have they made their mark? How are they represented in film, TV, literature, etc.? And what do they eat?
Promotional Partners: Department of Film, Television and Media at the University of Michigan, Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies at Wayne State University
Howard Jacobson was born in Manchester, England. After graduating from Cambridge University, he lectured for three years at the University of Sydney before returning to England to teach at Selwyn College, Cambridge. His later teaching assignments included a stint at Wolverhampton Polytechnic in the 1970s.
His time at Wolverhampton was to form the basis of his first novel, Coming from Behind, a campus comedy about a failing polytechnic that plans to merge facilities with a local football club. The episode of teaching in a football stadium is the only portion of the novel which is based on a true incident.
His novel The Mighty Walzer, about a teenage table tennis champion, won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic writing. It was the first of three of his novels to be long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, along with Who’s Sorry Now and Kalooki Nights (which he described as “the most Jewish novel that has ever been written by anybody, anywhere”). He was awarded the Man Booker Prize for The Finkler Question in 2010, and his novel, J, was also shortlisted for the award in 2014.
As well as his fiction, he is also a columnist for the Independent and has written and presented several television programs, including the critically-acclaimed Channel 4 series, The Bible: A History. Howard also wrote and presented the 2014 two-part documentary Rebels of Oz for Mint Productions and BBC4, in which he examines the cultural impact made by four rebellious Australians: Germaine Greer, Clive James, Barry Humphries and Robert Hughes.
Martin Stellman’s career as a screenwriter spans several decades ranging from the youth cult classic Quadrophenia (1979) to, most recently, Yardie (2018) Idris Elba’s acclaimed debut feature as director. Other writing credits include the reggae sound-system classic, Franco Rosso’s Babylon (1980), hailed by critic Jason Solomons as “one of the mythic films of British cinema”, the benchmark political thriller, Defence of the Realm (1985) starring Gabriel Byrne and Greta Scacchi and the hard-hitting urban western, For Queen and Country (1988) starring Denzel Washington, which Martin also directed. In March 2019, Babylon, never before released in USA, opened in 100 US cinemas for the very first time to rave reviews in the New York Times, Rolling Stone and The New Yorker.
Martin has also developed a number of larger budget projects for the Universal Pictures’ company, Working Title. The Interpreter, based on his original screenplay, co-written with Film School colleague Brian Ward, starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn and directed by Sidney Pollack, was released in 2005. He is currently working on an autobiographical drama series based on his experiences growing up Jewish in 1960s’ North London. It will be a co-production between UK’s FilmWave and Germany’s X-Filme to be directed by Lone Scherfig. He is also developing The Rock, an international thriller set on the Strait of Gibraltar, for Big Talk and Spain’s Media Pro.
Continuing his relationship with The Who, Martin has written Won’t Get Fooled Again, a sequel to the original Quadrophenia which was added in 2015 to the Criterion Collection joining “Casablanca” and “The Third Man” in its exclusive catalogue of classic films. Martin is a Member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and the European Film Academy.
Elliot Wilhelm has been Director and Curator of the Detroit Film Theatre since its creation in the 1970s. As one of the deans of the southeast Michigan film scene, he works with Cinetopia and countless film creation and presentation organizations. He is a champion of emerging and local filmmakers while also working hard to preserve and promote “classic” films. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster and is a long-time friend of the Detroit Jewish Film Festival.
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