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Shalom Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness | 2011 | NR | - 1.4.4

A biopic of Sholem Rabinovich, who under the pen name Shalom Aleichem became the renown Jewish writer of famous Yiddish works and developed the character of Tevye the Dairyman, the protagonist of "Fiddler on the Roof." With narration provided by Rachel Dratch, Peter Riegert and Bel Kaufman. Directed by Joseph Dorman. [1:33]

SEX/NUDITY 1 - We very briefly see footage of a movie where a young man and a young woman kiss.
 A man reads a portion of a play during which a man tells his daughter that she can "be friendly from a distance" with a young man.
 We see the bare chests of the bodies of two dead young men in two photographs.

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VIOLENCE/GORE 4 - As a narrator explains that more than 300 people were killed and thousands were injured, we see multiple black and white photographs of dead people: the bodies of more than 30 children are seen strewn on the ground, a large group of dead men are seen lined up on the ground, and an old man is seen with a small amount of blood coming from his mouth. We see many photographs of children, young men and men with bandages around their heads, covering their eyes and around their necks.
 As a narrator explains that Jewish people in Russia were being killed in the 1880s, we see multiple black and white photographs of dead bodies: a row of dead men are seen lined up in front of women standing behind them, four young men with dried blood on their faces, and two dead men slumped over and with a small amount of blood visible on their faces.
 We see photographs of dead people: A boy's body is shown in a small coffin, an older man's head is shown being stroked by a woman, and six dead men lie on the ground. We see a photograph of several women standing next to the burnt corpse of a man. A photograph of a dead man, posed in a casket, is seen while a man explains that a man's funeral was the most attended funeral in New York City history and we see photographs of a horse-drawn hearse followed by crowds of people.
 An older woman explains that she remembers receiving a telegram as a child concerning the health of her grandfather, "Papa very sick," and that the man died shortly after. A man explains that a politician had been killed and that people were using the Jewish population as scapegoats and targeting them for violence. A man says that Joseph Stalin had ordered all Jewish and Yiddish writers to be executed in one night. An older woman explains that her grandfather had been very ill, having begun coughing up blood as a symptom of tuberculosis, and having issues with his health due to diabetes and his prostate. A man explains that another man expressed that he knew he was going to die "within the decade" when he was only 50 years old. A woman explains that a man was so ill that he had problems even holding a pen. A man explains that a man's mother had died of cholera when he was a prepubescent. A narrator discusses that a man's father in law had passed away. A narrator reads an excerpt from a story where a man was explaining to an older man that he and several other men had been asked to dig their own graves after a group of soldiers told them they were going to murder them within two hours. A man reads a passage from a play that explains that after a series of attacks a woman had been found dead in her basement with her infant child, a man had been dragged from an attic and killed and five other members of their family had been murdered. A man explains that in a story a male character had been prompted to sit Shiva (in mourning) for his daughter after she left her faith, as though she had died -- or had never lived at all. A man tells the storyline of a man's short story about a woman consulting a rabbi about kosher pots and pans; the man explains that the meaning of the story was about how the woman was trying to find solace for the death of her husband and impending death of her son and that the rabbi could not find a reason for their deaths and passed out. A man dramatically reads from a play, as the protagonist in the play explains that he had witnessed men slap and curse one another, saying "blows were flying" and then dramatically ends that he would be "better off as a corpse." A woman dramatically reads from a play, saying "Oh how I wish my enemies to death." A man dramatically says that boys were practically "choking" on reading materials. A man narrates from a play, a portion that explains that a man's punishment, in jest, could be removing his brain. A man narrates a phrase from a play that said Paris could sink into the ground. A boy playfully reads an excerpt from a story, where a boy was excited after seeing his mother return from the cemetery, following his father being buried, because he was now able to move to America. A man half-jokingly explains that a boy had been sent away by his father after his father remarried; the boy was later brought back to the family and the man explains that it had been traumatic for the boy. A man explains that people would "almost come to blows" when discussing the two sides of the Battle of the Boers.
 We see photographs of bombed out buildings as a narrator explains that violence against Jews was escalating, as well as an impending war (WWI).
 We see footage of two men slapping one another as a narrator explains, "Tensions could rise" in a marketplace. Several men are seen in a photograph posing with their guns drawn.

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LANGUAGE 4 - 1 scatological term, 1 anatomical term, 1 mild obscenity, name-calling (déclassé, beggar, tramp, shrew, failure, pauper, kabtsn, real nobody, certified lunatic, dunce, sucker, moron, big moron, hooligan, worthless monster, weak piece of furniture with no legs, rat face, smart alec, bourgeois Zionist reactionary), curses (may leeches drink your blood, may you talk in delirium and be carried out on a stretcher, may a madman's name be stricken from a roster and you take his place, your name as in death).

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SUBSTANCE USE - A narrator explains that groups of men would come into towns and become extremely intoxicated, and a man reads a letter that says people "drink juleps" but does not elaborate. We see photographs of men holding pipes and cigarettes, and we see photographs of men with cigarettes in their mouths.

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DISCUSSION TOPICS - Jewish heritage, Yiddish language, ideological movement, poverty, enlightenment movement, Haskalah (Jewish enlightenment movement), kosher laws, intermarriage, Communism, Marxism, folk writing, preserving a history, Jewish literature, anti-Semitism, stock market, "Fiddler on the Roof," hate crimes.
MESSAGE - A writer's personal history can greatly influence their writing. It is important to preserve the past.
CAVEATS

Be aware that while we do our best to avoid spoilers it is impossible to disguise all details and some may reveal crucial plot elements.

We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and older reviews are not as complete & accurate as recent ones; we plan to revisit and correct older reviews as resources and time permits.

Our ratings and reviews are based on the theatrically-released versions of films; on video there are often Unrated, Special, Director's Cut or Extended versions, (usually accurately labelled but sometimes mislabeled) released that contain additional content, which we did not review.



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