more than 50 years laterJudy Blumethe classic novelare you there god It's me, daisyhas been published, the author's work is once again in the limelight on many fronts
There is aMargaritaKelly Fremon Craig und Lionsgate-Filmcome this springand 1975 small screen adaptationForever In progressby Mara Brock Akil and Netflix. At the top, however, is the documentationJudy flower forevervonvery half seriousdirectorsdavina pardojLea Wolchok.
Start withAmazonasOn April 21, the 97-minute film by Imagine Documentaries had its world premiere on Prime Videosun danceFilm Festival this weekend. In many ways, both about the entanglement of octogenarian Blume's legacy with the state of free speech in America in 2023 and about the life of the author, the documentary bridges the rare gap between a labor of love and a rigorous investigation.
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"There's definitely something going on in the culture right now that makes the books he's written and the things he's been through, especially with the book ban, seem extremely relevant. It seems like that moment is really repeating itself in a negative way," says Pardo of a country where many states are literally pulling books like Blume's off school and library shelves.
Emmy-winning directors sat down with me to talk about Blume and unveil what they wanted viewers to get out of their film on many levels.
DEADLINE:I have to ask, where did you Judy Blume readers grow up?
DAVINA PARDO: I was a Judy Blume reader as a child. Leah and I joked: I was an early bloomer and she was a late bloomer in many ways.
I think for me Judy was someone who taught you things no one else talked about and made me feel good even when I felt like what I was going through was new or different. I got my period when I was 10 years old before my older sister got hers. I remember readingare you there god It's me, daisyand realize that there are children who want that. There are kids who want to get their period, and then there's a character in the book who likes to wear a bra when she's in third grade. That blew my mind.
So it's been a very safe, comforting and also fun place to live as a book reader and I'm 25 years in the future with kids. I've decided to introduce you to [Blume's].Tales of a Nothing fourth grade. I turned on the audio book on a car ride one day and I hadn't really thought about books in years and suddenly I hear Judy's voice reading the audio book. She has an amazing, beautiful voice and she immediately reminded me of it and made me think of her from an adult perspective for the first time, wondering who this woman was and how she did all this and what has become of her.
LEA WOLCHOK:I'm late in every way. I didn't really read Judy as a kid. I didn't read much as a child. I read V.C. Andrews secretly a lot, which is really embarrassing. I was more of a movie, TV, and radio worm than a bookworm, and I played outside a lot because I grew up in Florida. Regardless, I was interested in doing this with Davina in part because of the deep respect I have for Davina as a filmmaker. She's the most thoughtful and insightful documentary maker, and as I started watching some of Judy's videos online, I realized, "Oh my god, I would have been a whole different kid if I had read Judy."
I wish I had readare you there god It's me, daisyand don't be afraid of it.
WOLCHOK:Because in cities like mine in Jacksonville, Florida, it was illegal and considered taboo. i was a good girl I didn't want to read anything taboo, although I loved V.C. Andrew. So I was blown away by her honesty and intrigued by her honesty and I knew her life story needed to be told in documentary form and I was truly honored that Davina had asked me to do it with her.
DEADLINE:In this respect, Judy Blume's books are very much of their time.–old fashioned, in a good way. Are you worried that if not a lack of relevance, then maybe there's a limit stopping people from enjoying books or getting something out of books like we did when we were younger?
PARDO:Coming of age is universal, whether it takes place in the 1950s or 1970s or today.
DEADLINE:How is that?
PARDO:That's why we're all attracted to great coming-of-age movies or coming-of-age books. So that's a baseline, and then I think, because the books are so specific and honest about where they stand in the experience they live. I mean, Judy doesn't claim to speak for everyone. The characters are in the first person perspective. I think the specificity helps make them feel more approachable, if that makes sense, and I think that's often true of the best films as well.
Really specific expertise can translate, but kids today have access to so many different types of stories, so many more authors, and so much more expertise. It was very important for us to include the makers of these books in the film, to hear how they reacted to Judy Blume as children. Also as a nod to the fact that there is a new generation of writers with different perspectives and views on growing up and all experiences. We really tried to balance those two things. I mean, it's a lot of fun delving into nostalgia and we wanted to live in it, but it also has to feel contemporary. So we lived in these spaces all the time and tried to do both at the same time.
DEADLINE:This is a film about Judy Blume, her art, her legacy, but it's also a film about retirement in America. About the broad and blatant book ban. A bit of a Trojan horse, I wanted to get an idea of what kind of impact you can expect when it launches on Amazon.
WOLCHOK:I mean it's funny, if you had asked us the question three years ago I'm not sure we would have gotten the same answer because banning and book censorship has really evolved and exploded.
Now we want the film to stimulate dialogue in schools, in libraries, in homes. I think one of the things I would love would be if parents and kids spoke differently to each other after watching the film.
Perhaps the child will watch the film. Perhaps the adult watches the film.
They may have just read and discussed a Judy Blume book, but I know that working on this film has led to mixed conversations around the dinner table for me. Different conversations in my family than we would have if I hadn't started reading Judy Blume as an adult, got to know Judy Blume and really started conversing with all the people who are influenced by her and who pushed the form completely other direction because of his honesty. I think if you watch the film and have an honest conversation with someone in your family, someone in your community, or someone in your school, I'd like to know that the film inspired an honest conversation. That would be a nice little thing.
DEADLINE:He's here in Sundance with a document that's going to appear on Amazon, there it isMargaritaMovie, the 1975 novelForeverbecomes a Netflix series–Why do you think Judy Blume will have a second or third bloom in 2023?
PARDO: I don't know if I agree with that. I have a feeling it's been like this for a long time.
We're so engrossed in it right now that I don't have a full idea of whether or not it's a prime or what that time is. People have always had this really strong reaction to her. Even 10 years ago when he published the last book he wroteIn the unlikely event.She would do these book tours and she would be surrounded by people who had read her books when they were younger and people would come to sign books and cry and she would always have a box of Kleenex. the same whensummer sistersit came out 15 years earlier.
He may be more active on social media these days. Maybe she has a bigger presence there and for a while she was very active on Twitter and for the last five years she's got this bookstore where she has a lot of presence and people know she's there and they flock to her. There's definitely something going on in the culture right now that makes the books he's written and the things he's been through, especially with the book ban, seem extremely relevant. It feels like this moment is actually repeating itself in a negative way. In this sense, there were many clinical parallels.
WOLCHOK:I mean I think everything has many layers because I think part of that is Judy turning 85 in a few weeks and I think she made a conscious decision to say yes to the projects, yes to tell her adjustments. Work, that's one of the reasons Judy Blume has a moment now because there are so many adaptations to come on screen and on television. i read aboutsummer sistersjForeverboth are adjusted. The Fudge series we read about its adaptation. We haven't spoken to any of the creators of these three things and then of course.MargaritaIt's coming out in April and that's something he's literally stuck with.
DEADLINE:Leah, you mention that Judy has said yes to projects recently. In that context, what was it like to tell her story even though she plays such a big role in your film?
PARDO:Judy's honesty on site, we've seen it in all of our interactions with her. She is very simple. We've always been very clear with each other. We were clear about what we wanted to do and she was very clear about her limitations, what is possible and what isn't. I think we had a good relationship straight away. The first time I met her it was like I was still a fan, but I think I got over that pretty quickly.
DEADLINE:And you're honest, separating fan and filmmaker can't be easy...
PARDO:I can tell you that one of the things that cemented my desire to do this film was watching videos of people interviewing them.
Every–I mean so many, I don't have to name everyone–But a lot of interviewers, people who have interviewed Judy publicly on stage, are holding back tears or crying. I remember meeting her for the first time and saying to myself, 'Don't cry. Don't cry." But we had this three-hour lunch, and I came home and I danced, and then I think we got over it. Yeah. I mean, you have to, right?
We conducted very long interviews. We also had a long year of preparation because Judy said yes to the project in February 2020 and then it all shut down, so there were discussions with Judy over Zoom for a year. Watching her run 50th anniversary events on Zoom. It was a slow build for production. I think this was really helpful for. She allowed us to sit quietly at her work and also continue to build our relationship with her from a distance until we finally got to see her in person again.
DEADLINE:Over and over again this year, I hear filmmakers say that the pandemic presented an opportunity because it gave them time to reflect, to reflect that they normally don't...
PARDO:Yes, one of the things I keep coming back to about Judy is that what made her successful was the moment she looked inward and spoke from her own experience. I remember he was writing based on what really interested him and who he was and what was close to his heart when he was only 10 or 11 years old. That's what struck a chord.
For me this is really inspiring. I hope it's for other people too.
Her voice is important, and it's important to hold on to, and the fact that she was able to do that opened the doors for other writers to write a similar style of writing, a kind of intimate first-person story. The stories may differ in style, but each is derived from each other's unique and intimate perspective. I hope that reflects in the range of writers we interviewed, in the things they talk about, and I hope it inspires other people to find their path and tell their story.