The remake will be helmed by “Hamilton” director Thomas Kail.
“It has been a life-long dream of mine to direct Fiddler, though I always imagined I would do it on stage. I am overjoyed to have the opportunity to make a new film version of my favorite show with Mike DeLuca at MGM, where so many transcendent musical movies have been made,” Kail told Deadline.
Top credentials aside, some fear Hollywood will mistreat the beloved classic.
“Here’s an idea: Write a musical about how Hollywood is out of ideas for new musicals. Leave #FiddlerOnTheRoof alone!” freelance film critic Danielle Solzman tweeted.
Rabbi Alex Goldberg, coordinating chaplain at the University of Surrey in England also thought it was a bad idea.
“I shall tell you in one word why it’s a mistake to create a remake of Fiddler on the Roof for cinema and that word is: Tradition!” he tweeted.
Others, including the staff at Gershman Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival, could not be more excited.
“Why not reimagine something that is beautiful and recreate it so it is fresh and vibrant for a new generation to discover?” asked Olivia Antsis, executive director of PJFF.
She believes the themes of change, family, immigration and revolution are universal and timeless.
“It’s a story about change, how times change, how values change, how traditions change and trying to adapt to a new world and where you fit in,” she said.
She recently rewatched the film with her husband and felt like it spoke to their experience as a couple.
“I have an interfaith marriage and (my husband) very much put he and I in the role of the youngest daughter and her non-Jewish lover,” she said.
Festival Manager Matt Bussy said he understood audience concerns about remakes, but was looking forward to the new version.
“With Hollywood, they do so many remakes and redos that it feels forced, but with ‘Fiddler,’ there’s a great opportunity because it’s not one of those movies that has been remade a million times,” he said.
He said a remake is especially relevant now given the rise of anti-Semitism in recent years.
“It really is just a pure celebration of Judaism and the beauty of it. Considering how dark everything’s been, it’s just a really fun idea.”
Larry Rappoport, a member of PJFF’s screening committee, said the story was already successfully reimagined on the stage and screen, including the 2015 off-Broadway production in Yiddish.
“When I saw the Yiddish version, I thought, ‘I’ve seen this story so many times, how could it be worthwhile or valuable?’ But I loved it,” he said.
He was also a fan of “Miracle of Miracles,” a documentary about the making of the original “Fiddler” movie.
“(It) was about the internationalization of the film and the impact it had on immigrant communities, because it’s truly an immigrant story, and it made me very emotional,” he said.
Antsis was interested in seeing how the filmmakers handled remaking a largely white production in the midst of efforts to diversify the film industry.
“Maybe the story could be redone with Jews of color living in today’s society and dealing with issues that are important to Jews today. It would just be interesting to see some diversity,” she said.
Rappoport was intrigued by the idea.
“There’s always this issue with how to cast shows where the characters are already sort of developed in your mind,” he said. “But ‘Hamilton’ is a great example of how race doesn’t matter with regard to casting. Washington is black, so are Jefferson and Lafayette.”
Antsis added that an adaptation could use Jewish humor to help audiences cope during dark times.
“This story, this film, is not afraid to go deep and dark and really be about important meaningful issues, but it remains very watchable and light. There are these moments of levity and comedy, and it’s very Jewish in that way. In times of darkness, we use laughter to deal with our problems,” she said.
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