The Arty Semite

David Bezmozgis Turning 'Natasha' Into Film

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share

Photo: David Franco

A decade after its publication, Canadian author David Bezmozgis is turning his debut short story collection, “Natasha and Other Stories,” into a film. As with “Victoria Day,” his first cinematic endeavor in 2009, Bezmozgis, a graduate of the University of Southern California’s film school, is both writing and directing the project.

The stories in the breakout “Natasha” chronicling the saga of the Bermans, a Russian-Jewish immigrant family to Toronto, were hailed by critics as “dazzling,” “scary good,” and “stunning.” The book was translated into 15 languages and won several prizes. Virtually unknown prior to the collection’s publication, the Riga-born Bezmozgis’s literary star rose with “Natasha.” His celebrated first novel, “The Free World,” was published in 2011, and will be followed this coming September by a second novel, “The Betrayers.”

The film version of “Natasha” will focus on the title story, which comes in the middle of the collection.

“It comes at the midpoint and it relates to what comes before it and what comes after it, and it encompasses all the generations of the family,” Bezmozgis explained in a phone conversation with the Forward. “It gives access into the entire book. There’s a lot of drama in that story.”

The notion of trying to turn all of the stories in the book into a single film narrative did not make sense to the author. “I couldn’t do justice to the episodic nature of the collection,” he said.

Following three years of pre-production development, Bezmozgis will begin filming “Natasha” in Toronto in July. An independent production backed by Telefilm Canada, it will star Russian-speaking, mainly Canadian actors. “The young woman in the lead role actually lives in New York and is from Odessa,” the filmmaker shared.

With just a month to go before the start of shooting, Bezmozgis is still scouting locations. Recently, he put a call out on Facebook asking for leads on specific types of houses in a northern suburb of Toronto. “The film will evoke the sense of a particular part of the city, but viewers will see Toronto at large, too,” he said.

Following the completion of “Victoria Day,” which also dealt with immigrant themes and had a cast of Russian-speaking actors, Bezmozgis said he would welcome the opportunity to make another movie. He finds the collaborative, social atmosphere involved in filmmaking a welcome change from the intense solitude of fiction writing.

Accordingly, it might appear that Bezmozgis is deliberately alternating between writing books and making films. But that would be reading a bit too much into things. “That would presuppose that I have control over the timing of all this, which I don’t,” he noted.

Bezmozgis will, however, be alternating this fall between the editing of “Natasha” and events related to the launch of his highly anticipated new novel.

His intention is to juggle it all so that “Natasha” will be ready for screenings at film festivals in 2015 and for a theatrical release in 2015 or early 2016.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Film, Natasha and Other Stories, David Bezmozgis, Books

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.