Toronto Jewish Film Festival: Mamele (1938)

Posted by Jessica Finch May 1, 2014 0 Comment 4439 views

Mamele is the story of Havche and her family living in Lodz, Poland just prior to World War II. It’s a Cinderella story, with Havche or ‘Mamele’ playing the role of daughter, mother and caregiver to her large family. The word mamele roughly translates as ‘little mother’ in Yiddish, and Havche, played by Molly Picon, takes on this role following her mother’s passing. Her sisters are selfish and unkind (a la Cinderella’s step-sisters), but her father is much worse as he would rather play dominoes all day than support his family. The men in this film are portrayed in a negative light, aside from Havche’s little brothers, and her suitor Mr. Schlesinger. It’s a sign of the times, but most of the men are unemployed and some are thieves and gangsters.

Mamele is a musical, but the singing doesn’t overpower the picture — however all the songs are in Yiddish and many without subtitles, so they do drag on for anyone unfamiliar with the language. Mamele does touch on a few religious themes, like the celebration of Sukkot, and children going to Hebrew school, but for the most part it’s a simple story about family and the pursuit of happiness. In many ways it’s a coming of age story, as Havche realizes her own potential lies outside her crazy family. As its set in 1930s Europe, the film may seem sexist by today’s standards as the women all seek marriage to wealthy suitors, but it works in the film’s context. The film is entirely in Yiddish, with English subtitles, and while it feels long in some parts, it’s worth the wait for the happy ending.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

Screening Times for Mamele


Watch the Mamele Trailer


About Jessica Finch

Jessica Finch is an avid writer and film enthusiast who has been contributing documentary reviews for Pretty Clever Films since March 2013. She is a graduate of Ryerson University’s Radio & Television Arts program and has worked as a freelance producer and production designer on short films and music videos. Jessica currently works as a sales coordinator at Achilles Media, an events management company in Toronto.

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