Audiences love a romantic comedy. But a couple of documentaries screening during the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival illustrate the challenges found in humor and love. It’s not nearly as effortless as it appears to be on the silver screen.
"The Last Laugh"
Ferne Pearlstein grew up in Wynnewood, a suburb right outside of Philadelphia. Her film on Holocaust humor, "The Last Laugh," will have its first hometown screening during the festival. Pearlstein first thought of documenting this particular dark subject in a comedic context in 1993, but had to wait almost 20 years to even begin the project.
“We made a film about bad taste, but we did it in good taste,” said Pearlstein. “We started to uncover this funny and dark sense of humor among [Holocaust] survivors. It was very much like, ‘We can make jabs at our parents but you can’t.’ Except it’s not jabbing at parents, but what it was like to live in that hellhole.”
Pearlstein and her husband Robert Edwards had to assemble an entire film crew and scout locations in less than two weeks after they received a confirmation for their first interview. Actor and director Rob Reiner said yes to being featured in the film. After that, Pearlstein interviewed comedy and entertainment icons such as Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman and Robert Clary in addition to Auschwitz survivor and activist Renee Firestone. The film discusses gallows humor in addition to references to Nazi Germany in entertainment since World War II.