Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles
by director/co-writer Max Lewkowicz
I first saw Fiddler on the Roof when I was a teenager in Montreal. It was the remarkable film version directed by Norman Jewison. Having grown up in Montreal, I had few chances to see staged Broadway musicals unless I came to visit my relatives in New York. I tried to camouflage my sobbing (hey, I’m a guy) when I saw Tevye say goodbye to his daughter Hodel at the remote Russian train station, both realizing they would not see each other again. How could that be? But also how could Tevye consider his other daughter Chava “dead to him” because she married a Russian boy out of the faith? I could not understand these events being portrayed in front of me.
My mother was a Holocaust survivor from Poland and love for me was everything to her. She had lost a child and first husband in the liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto (FYI: where Chava and Fyedka are moving to at the end of the story …doomed). How could Tevye let this happen? I liked him. I cared for him and yet he could do this? What was happening?
I saw the 1981 Broadway revival with Topol. I was living in New York now. Fiddler hit me again with powerful swipes to my soul with alternating fits of laughter and tears. I knew I was experiencing an extraordinary work of art that transgressed time lines, geographic boundaries, religious beliefs, political viewpoints, and generations. Wow.
In 2016 I met one of the geniuses who created this sublime work. Sheldon Harnick, the wonderful lyricist and last surviving member of the team (Jerry Bock, Joe Stein and Jerome Robbins were all gone by then) when I asked if I could shoot interviews with him and those who could still help tell the story. His youthful (93) spirit said absolutely! (Sadly as I write this, Hal Prince, the producer and giant of Broadway, just passed away as well, but we interviewed him for a long rich piece for our film). The goal of our film was to explore the greatness of art that flows parallel to our real lives. Family connection, racism and xenophobia, refugees searching for security, love between young and old, humor in human foibles, and of course tradition…its changes and conflicts and power, are all part of Fiddler on the Roof. Hopefully that is what the viewer of this documentary will come away with.
The story of Tevye and his daughters resonates as great literature and music and connects to the world because it is so human and real. It took us three years to create with over 60 interviews, historic clips and footage of productions around the world built the structure of Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles, so we would have a piece worthy of the original. We hope we achieved that mission.