German film breaks taboo on satirising Jewish community

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The Independent Online

A film which for the first time pokes light-hearted fun at Jews living in today's Germany has opened to rave reviews and praise from Jewish leaders for breaking down one of the country's most rigidly held post-war taboos.

A film which for the first time pokes light-hearted fun at Jews living in today's Germany has opened to rave reviews and praise from Jewish leaders for breaking down one of the country's most rigidly held post-war taboos.

Alles auf Zucker! ("Everything on Sugar!"), by the Swiss German-Jewish director Dani Levy, 48, went on show at cinemas throughout Germany this week and has earned little other than wall-to-wall approbation from critics. "This is the first movie in post-war German film history to deal normally with the issue of Jewish self-discovery," wrote the Morgenpost newspaper of Berlin.

Paul Spiegel, leader of Germany's Central Council of Jews, said of the film: "For the first time Germans can laugh together with Jews - it succeeds remarkably well."

Alles auf Zucker! comes after scores of films about the Jews and the Holocaust - such as Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List - which have been dutifully watched by Germans and even featured in school curriculums over the past decades. Yet unlike almost every German film about the Jews since the Second World War, Levy's 95-minute production is a comedy, and it is staged along the lines of a television sitcom rather than a big-screen epic.

Levy said: "The Germans' relationship to the Jews and the Holocaust is, to put it mildly, extremely burdened. Most Germans either feel ashamed when the issue is mentioned or have been over-enlightened about the issue. It may be hugely politically incorrect but I wanted to make jokes about this."

The main protagonist of Alles auf Zucker!' is Jakob Zuckermann, a former convinced East German Communist who has long since distanced himself from his Jewish roots. He explains that he avoided all discussion about his Jewish background during Communism by remarking repeatedly: "I don't belong to that club" and "I lost all my family in the Holocaust." Zuckermann lives with his equally non-devout wife, Marlene, a peroxide blonde who lives in jogging attire, in a run-down apartment in east Berlin. "Their lives are about as kosher as a pork chop," is how one critic described the pair.

Chaos ensues when Jakob's brother and his family, who happen to be highly orthodox Jews from Israel, announce that they are to visit the Zuckermanns for a week to hold a wake for the brothers' recently deceased mother. Marlene rushes out to buy a book entitled How Jews Live and the couple spend frenzied hours filling their fridge with appropriate kosher food before going on a crash course on Jewish habits and customs. The two families' forced coexistence turns into a farce of slapstick proportions, before both sides eventually make up and make friends.

Levy, whose father grew up in a village in Poland, said that the biggest objections he encountered when trying to get backing for the film came from German production companies and older German Jews. "Several film companies said they weren't interested in making films about 'minorities' and some senior Jewish community members were worried that a comedy would provoke a new wave of anti-Semitism," he said.

Since reunification in 1990, Germany's Jewish community has mushroomed from 30,000 to well over 100,000 because of Jewish immigration from the former Soviet Union.

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