Filmmaker Cries, ‘Yoo-hoo!’

By Gabriel Sanders

Published May 04, 2007, issue of May 04, 2007.
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Filmmaker Aviva Kempner has a theory about what makes a good sitcom.

“All the best ones,” she said, “have people walking into and out of each other’s apartments: ‘Seinfeld,’ ‘Friends,’ ‘The Honeymooners,’ ‘I Love Lucy.’ And who’s the one who first developed that? A Jewish woman from New York.”

Kempner, who charmed audiences with her 1998 documentary “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg,” has turned her directorial talents toward a new “berg” — Gertrude Berg, the meddlesome Molly Goldberg of the 1950s hit series “The Goldbergs.”

“Gertrude Berg,” Kempner told The Shmooze from her film studio in Washington, D.C., “was the Oprah of her time. The Oprah of radio and TV.”

Kempner’s film, tentatively titled “Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg” — a nod to the show’s catch phrase — is not quite finished yet, but those looking to catch a 20-minute sneak peek can do so next week at the MacDowell Centennial Film Series at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Kempner has twice stayed at MacDowell, the fabled New Hampshire artists’ colony that has hosted more than 5,000 writers, artists, composers and filmmakers since its inception in 1907. During her most recent stay, two years ago, she worked on her Berg script.

“It’s an irony,” Kempner said, “but to concentrate on my script, I had to go to a place where there were no neighbors yelling, ‘Yoo-hoo.’”

An excerpt from Kempner’s work in progress will be screened at MoMA on May 6 at 2:30 p.m. and May 12 at 6 p.m.


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