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Sholom Aleichem’s Work Gets Animated

The characters who inspired “Fiddler on the Roof” could be headed to television — this time, as cartoons.

Sholom Aleichem Image by FORWARD ASSOCIATION

The New Israeli Foundation for Cinema & TV announced on December 29 special funding to develop scripts based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem. Tevye the dairyman — the protagonist in several of Sholom Aleichem’s stories — is just one idea that the foundation is mentioning as a possible subject for adaptation.

Screenwriters inspired by the Yiddish literary giant are invited to submit proposals in Hebrew for adaptations of his works, which include such classics as “Motl the Cantor’s Son” and “Tevye and His Daughters.” Following the March 2 deadline, up to 10 of the most promising pitches will receive funding for additional development, with the top ideas — between three and six — expected to receive further money to be turned into completed scripts.

The foundation, which promotes documentary, experimental, feature and short films, is suggesting animation as a possible genre for the adaptations. “His stories contain a lot of humor, and the hope is to allow movies that will focus not just on one group, but on the whole family — young people and older people,” said Dorit Inbar, the New Israeli Foundation’s general manager.

Envisioned as 30- to 50-minute films that would screen as a miniseries on Israeli TV, the Sholom Aleichem project was inspired in part, Inbar said, by “Waltz With Bashir,” an earlier work of animation that received New Israeli Foundation funding. A feature-length cartoon dealing with memory, trauma and Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, the film, written and directed by Ari Folman, received an Oscar nomination for best foreign film in 2009.

Perhaps equally unlikely as subject matter for animation, Sholom Aleichem’s works can be adapted, according to contest rules, to whatever locations screenwriters deem “most fitting,” including “an eastern European shtetl, a Tel Aviv suburb, an Arab village… or a settlement on Mars.”

The New Israeli Foundation previously funded a similar screenwriting competition for films inspired by S.Y. Agnon, winner of the 1966 Nobel Prize in literature for his works in Hebrew. Three winning submissions from that contest are currently in different stages of production, with funding from the foundation.

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