‘Judy Blume Forever’ directors say beloved author is ‘furious’ over America’s new wave of book bans


Celebrated author Judy Blume is the subject of the Sundance documentary, Judy Blume forever. (Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Judy Blume threw down the gauntlet earlier this year when she explained Kelly Fremon Craig’s upcoming movie version of Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret to be better than her seminal 1970 novel that has been a must-read for several generations of teens. And filmmakers Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok can confirm that the author’s response is 100% sincere. Speaking to Yahoo Entertainment from the 2023 Sundance Film Festival – where their new documentary, Judy Blume foreverhad its world premiere – the directors reveal they were in the audience when Craig first screened the film for Blume, now 84.

“It was so exciting to watch Judy watch the movie,” says Wolchok. And we were so excited to be in the audience with all the people who made it and all her fans. We’re so excited for her, because it’s her baby! She held her baby for so long, and now we have will all be able to see her baby on screen.”

The general public will be able to judge for themselves when Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret will premiere in theaters on April 28. And they can prepare for the movie by watching Judy Blume foreverwhich debuts on Prime Video on April 21. While the longevity of her books guarantees that the author – who currently owns a bookstore in Key West, Fla. seem to mark a step back into the limelight eight years after the publication of her last book, In the unlikely eventin 2015. And more Blume to come: Netflix recently announced that Mara Brock Akil is developing a streaming series based on one of the author’s most controversial novels, Forever.

“I think the reason she decided to say ‘yes’ is because she wants to see the product and be here to enjoy it,” explains Pardo. “I don’t think it was a strategic decision to be more forward-looking, but she realized she’s in her 80s and all these incredible people are coming to her with interest. She wants to be a part of the process and see the results .”

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Judy Blume forever, meanwhile, is a chance for the author to tell her life story in her own words, beginning with her typically honest descriptions of coming of age in the heady atmosphere of a 1950s suburb. Though it is a time and place often dominated by some – especially those in more socially conservative circles – Blume expresses little nostalgia for that long-gone world. And Wolchok, for example, describes her candid commentary about the 1950s as ‘refreshing’.

“It really resonated with me, because my parents grew up around the same time, and I feel there was a lot of pressure [on women] being a good girl – smiling and pretending everything is fine. I don’t think either of us were surprised that Judy talked about the 1950s that way, because her entire career has revolved around uncovering secrets that adults tried to hide from children, and being honest about experiences children had in their own had life. bodies and within their friendships.”

That honesty is reflected in the grounded narratives of teenage sexuality that permeate Blume’s books, from Margaret’s experiences of adolescence in Are you there God? to Tony’s wet dreams Then again, maybe I won’t to Katherine and Michael losing their virginity Forever. Of course, those scenes also landed Blume on the list of America’s most banned authors, as conservative watchdogs still try to get her novels off the shelves of the school library. In fact, the filmmakers notice that Forever was one of 52 books nearly banned last August by a school board in Utah — which hosts the Sundance Film Festival every January, though the district eventually backed out of that decision.

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PARK CITY, UTAH - JANUARY 23: Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok of "Judy Blume Forever"  attend The IMDb Studio at Acura Festival Village Cast Photo Calls on location at Sundance 2023 on January 23, 2023 in Park City, Utah.  (Photo by Corey Nickols/Getty Images for IMDb)

Judy Blume forever directors Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. (Photo: Corey Nickols/Getty Images for IMDb)

Blume has never shied away from directly addressing book ban advocates. Judy Blume forever includes a memorable clip of her performance on CNNs Crossfire in the 1980s, where they skillfully spar with right-wing firefighter, Pat Buchanan, who makes a show of denouncing her so-called “obsession” with teen sex. “We knew this was going to be in the movie as soon as we saw it,” says Pardo. “We were just amazed at her passion and her courage. She was able to stand up to him and really take on him.”

Blume denounced the recent spate of book bans in America during her recent appearance on the Today show, and Pardo and Wolchok confirm that she is “furious” that the cycle has started again. “She thought we were past that,” says Wolchok, noting that the author makes a point of selling banned books at her Key West bookstore. “We’re all outraged that those books are still being banned — that they’re being pulled from shelves and that kids can’t find themselves in a book simply because one of the parents had a problem with it.”

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“I think it parallels what is happening with reproductive rights,” Pardo adds, referring to how the conservative bloc of US Supreme Court justices voted to Roe against Wade last year. “It’s like ‘Here we are again!’ It’s never really gone, but it also feels like we’re fighting a long overdue battle.”

TODAY -- Pictured: Judy Blume on Thursday, January 12, 2023 -- (Photo by: Helen Healey/NBC via Getty Images)

Blume during her recent appearance on the Today show (Photo: Helen Healey/NBC via Getty Images)

With a clock speed of 97 minutes, Judy Blume forever doesn’t cover every title in Blume’s personal library, but the directors say they devoted one of their shooting days to a book-by-book discussion of her 29 literary works. 1971 Then again, maybe I won’t was one of the books that didn’t make it to the final version, and it was especially hard for Wolchok to leave out.

“I’m raising two boys and stuff [Tony] talks about his fear of having a stiff in front of the class [rang true]”, she says laughing. “As a mother, I loved being able to hand them that book and talk to them about it.”

A controversial aspect of Then again, maybe I won’t that may have aged badly for progressive and conservative readers alike are Tony’s amateur attempts at playing peeper – using binoculars to watch his 16-year-old neighbor undress. But according to Pardo, that’s only a small part of the novel, and one that has been blown out of proportion over the years.

“So that’s not the most important part of that book: it’s really a book about a child with anxiety, which was so unusual to see at the time,” she notes. “And the connection Tony feels with his grandmother is one of the most beautiful relationships Judy has ever written. I really wanted that book to be more present in the movie, but there was no way we could include it. I mean, they wrote 29 books! We had to find the books that most intersected with her own life story.”

Judy Blume forever will premiere on Prime Video on April 21.


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