Shivah film to get new lease of life

By Marcus Dysch, March 5, 2009
Oh yes, I knew her well: Sir Derek Jacobi as Sidney Turtlebaum tricking mourners at a London shivah

Oh yes, I knew her well: Sir Derek Jacobi as Sidney Turtlebaum tricking mourners at a London shivah

A short film which starred Sir Derek Jacobi as a trickster targeting shivah houses is to be made into a full-length feature.

Sidney Turtlebaum was first screened at last year’s UK Jewish Film Festival, featuring an 80-something gay conman who steals from mourners in the Jewish heartlands of north west London — using a newspaper that looks worryingly like the JC to track down the shivahs.

The 10-minute comedy was shot in Golders Green and funded using a £10,000 grant from the Pears Foundation UKJFF Short Film Fund.

Critics, who loved the film, called for the character to return in a longer format.

The film’s success has led Sir Derek to agree to appear again in the lead role.

The short’s original artistic team from Third Man Films, including producer Daniel Jewel, director Tristram Shapeero, and writer Raphael Smith, will also all return.

Mr Jewel said: “The Jewish Film Festival’s support was invaluable. We were all very pleased with how the short turned out. Everything came together.

“It’s very satisfying as a producer to know your film is showing around the world and being so well received.”

There had always been the intention to create a longer film “when the time was right”, said Mr Smith.

“Sidney is a complex character so we can really do a lot with that in terms of a feature film and go beyond one story. We want to expand the short and really get into his background. He is part of a community but also an outsider and a stranger. The shivah storyline will definitely feature.”

Mr Smith attributed much of the film’s success to Sir Derek’s dedication.

“It’s very rewarding working with him. He took to the character immediately and brought a lot of respect. He didn’t take anything as being just another day’s work. It was like working with a young, hungry actor.”

It is hoped a development deal will soon be in place, potentially allowing filming to begin early in 2010.

The original short is due to be shown at a number of prestigious film festivals throughout this year.

If it wins an award at April’s Aspen Shortsfest in the United States, there will be an opportunity to apply for the long list for next year’s Best Short Film category at the Oscars.

Last updated: 4:00pm, March 10 2009