On a long road trip from New York to Nova Scotia a few years ago, documentarian Davina Pardo played an audiobook by Judy Blume Tales for the fourth grade nothing To help pass the time to her children, then 5 and 8 years old.
Bloom’s effervescent voice, as he recites the same 1972 novel about elementary school angst that gripped Bardot as a child, charmed the director’s children, too. “It immediately set me back,” says Pardo. “Seeing the way my kids react to it, but also being an adult and wanting to know the adult behind these books. Kids are used to writing [Blume] And they say: “How do you know our secrets?” I felt the movie could be an opportunity to get to know her in a way we haven’t had the chance until now.”
Judy Blume forever, Pardo and co-director Leah Wolchok’s new film about the 84-year-old young fantasy pioneer, traces Bloom’s upbringing in a Jewish family in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in the 1940s and 1950s, and her rise as an author in the 1970s. who wrote for young adults with rare candor, often talking about taboo topics like menstruation and masturbation and eventually selling more than 90 million books. The Imagine and Amazon Studios documentary, which will premiere Jan. 21 at Sundance ahead of its April 21 release on Prime Video, comes at a time when many of the issues Bloom grappled with in her life and work — book bans, abortion, anti-Semitism — are topical. Shockingly.
while Pardo and Wolchok, the team behind the Emmy Award-winning HBO The New Yorker Cartoonists Almost too seriousThought Bloom was a natural subject for the film, the author herself took some convincing. “I said, ‘I don’t want a documentary about my life,’” Bloom says, speaking on the phone from her home in Key West, Florida, where she runs an independent bookstore and lives with her husband, George. “Why would I want that?” Bardot and his quiet persistence take on Bloom.
The approval of the document was part of a series of decisions Bloom has made recently to open up her life and work to others. She also agreed to star in a biography of writer Mark Oppenheimer. She donated her archives to the Beinecke Library at Yale University; Writer and director Kelly Fremon Craig was allowed to adapt her 1970 novel, Are you with God? I’m Margaret, for Lionsgate in a movie due April 28; and Mara Brock Akil are making a Netflix series loosely based on her 1975 novel forever. “Right time, right place,” says Bloom Margaret The decision, on which she had stood for 50 years. “I was in the right frame of mind.”
Since she published her first book in 1969, it has been Bloom who decides how to frame the story. But with the documentary, I passed that responsibility over to Bardot Wolchok. “I had no power,” Blum says of the documentary. “I answered their questions and spoke at great length, but I didn’t see any part until I was almost done. I had to understand that this was what was going to happen, and I wasn’t telling my story.”
The film includes interviews with Bloom’s children, now ages 59 and 61, as well as two readers who wrote to her as a child in the 1970s and 1980s detailing their own problems and receiving remarkably thoughtful and consistent correspondence from Bloom over the decades. Authors including Alex Guino and Jacqueline Woodson talk about Bloom’s influence on them and their work, and archival footage shows Bloom experiencing a backlash for writing so frankly about sex. In one delicious clip from the show shoot In 1984, Bloom responded to criticism from conservative commentator Pat Buchanan by asking him why he was so interested in masturbation.
“None of my parents ever told me the sex was bad,” Bloom says, explaining where her openness comes from despite growing up in a conservative era. “No one ever said it was wrong for a girl to enjoy her sex life. My dad made it clear that I would enjoy my sex life — just not until, like he was saying, ‘You really have to wait until you get married or you’re 25.’ I was like, ‘25, dad. ?”
While critics have attempted to remove Bloom’s books from schools and libraries due to their handling of sex, book banners today target titles that include explicit depictions of racism or showcase LGBTQ families. “Banning books is crazy right now,” says Bloom. “It was terrible in the ’80s, but it’s much worse now because, politically, those who ban books run for school boards and get elected.”
These days, Bloom campaigns for free speech not as a writer but as a bookstore owner trying to support other authors, especially those whose books have been banned. Watching her own story unfold in the 97-minute movie put some of her influence into perspective. “It’s emotional,” Bloom says, “to see your life go like this.”
This story first appeared in the Jan. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter. Click here to subscribe.