Film fest to screen ‘Last Laugh’
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Film fest to screen ‘Last Laugh’

Ferne Pearlstein and Mel Brooks (Anne Etheridge)
Ferne Pearlstein and Mel Brooks (Anne Etheridge)

Planning for the eleventh annual Teaneck International Film Festival is under way. “The Last Laugh,” a documentary, will be among the films featured at the festival, which will run November 3–6 at Teaneck Cinemas, the Puffin Cultural Forum, and Temple Emeth.

Created by the award-winning team of Ferne Pearlstein, Amy Hobby, Anne Hubbell, Robert Edwards, and Jan Warner, “The Last Laugh” starts with the premise that the Holocaust should be strictly off-limits for comedy, but then asks, “Is it?” History shows that many Nazi concentration camp victims used humor as a means of survival and resistance. Still, any use of comedy in connection with this horror risks diminishing the suffering of millions. Where is the line? If the Holocaust is off limits, what are the implications for other controversial subjects, such as AIDS, racism, or 9/11, in a society that prizes freedom of speech?

“The Last Laugh” weaves together an intimate cinema verité portrait of Auschwitz survivor Renee Firestone alongside interviews with influential comedians, authors, and thinkers, ranging from Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, and Gilbert Gottfried to Etgar Keret, Shalom Auslander, and Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League. It also includes archival material from “The Producers” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm”; clips of comics including Louis C.K., Joan Rivers, and Chris Rock; newly discovered footage from Jerry Lewis’s never-released Holocaust comedy, “The Day the Clown Cried,” and rare footage of cabarets inside concentration camps.

Richard Trank, an executive director at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said of the film: “I am privy to many films that are released … about the Holocaust. I cannot think of one project that has taken the approach of [this film]. “The Last Laugh” dispels the notion that there is nothing new to say or to reveal on the subject because this aspect of survival is one that very few have explored in print, and no one that I know of has examined in a feature documentary.”

A panel discussion will follow the film. Details will be available on the TIFF website, www.teaneckfilmfestival.org, at the beginning of October.

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