Judy Blume threw down the gauntlet earlier this year when she said Kelly Fremon Craig’s upcoming film version of Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret to be better than his seminal 1970 novel which was must-read for several generations of teenagers. And filmmakers Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok can confirm that the author’s reaction is 100% genuine. Speaking with Yahoo Entertainment about the 2023 Sundance Film Festival – where their new documentary, Judy Blume foreverhad its world premiere – the makers reveal they were in the audience the first time Craig screened the film for Blume, now 84.
“It was so exciting to see Judy watch the movie,” Wolchok said. “And we were so excited to be in the audience with all the people who made it and all of her fans. We’re so excited for her, because it’s her baby! She’s been holding her baby for so long, and now we’ll all be able to watch her baby on screen.”
The general public will be able to judge for themselves when Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret premieres in theaters 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 his books ensures that the author – who currently owns and operates a bookstore in Key West, Florida – will always be in the public consciousness, these back-to-back projects seem to represent a return to the spotlight eight years after the publication of his latest book, In the unlikely eventin 2015. And there’s more Blume on the way: Netflix recently announced that Mara Brock Akil is developing a streaming series based on one of the author’s most controversial novels, For all time.
“I think the reason she decided to say ‘Yes,’ is that she wants to see the product and be there to enjoy it,” Pardo explains. “I don’t think it was a strategic decision to be more forward-looking, but she realized she was over 80 and all these amazing people were coming to see her with interest. She wants be part of the process and see the results.”
Judy Blume forever, meanwhile, is a chance for the author to tell his life story in his own words, beginning with his generally honest descriptions of coming of age in the mind-numbing suburban atmosphere of the 1950s. being a time and place often adored by some – especially those in more socially conservative circles – Blume expresses little nostalgia for this long-gone world. And Wolchok, for his part, describes his candid commentary on the 1950s as “refreshing”.
“It really resonated with me, because my parents grew up at the same time, and I feel there was a lot of pressure [on women] be a nice girl — smile and pretend everything is fine. I don’t think any of us were surprised that Judy would talk about the 50s that way, because her whole career has been about uncovering secrets that adults try to hide from kids and being honest about the experiences that children lived within their own bodies and within their friendships.”
This honesty manifests itself in the grounded accounts of adolescent sexuality that permeate Blume’s books, Margaret’s experiences with puberty in Are you there God? to Tony’s wet dreams in Again, maybe I won’t to Katherine and Michael losing their virginity in For all time. Of course, these scenes also landed Blume on America’s Most Banned Authors list, as conservative watchdogs continue to seek to remove his novels from school library shelves. In fact, the filmmakers note that For all time was among 52 books that were nearly banned by a school board in Utah – where the Sundance Film Festival is held every January – last August, although the district ultimately backed down from the decision.
Blume has never been shy about directly attacking book ban supporters. Judy Blume forever includes a memorable clip of his appearance on CNN Crossfire in the 1980s, where she spars easily with right-wing firebrand Pat Buchanan, who puts on a show exposing his so-called “obsession” with teenage sex. “We knew it was going to be in the movie as soon as we saw it,” Pardo says. “We were amazed at her passion and bravery. She was able to take it on and really take it on.”
Blume denounced the recent American wave of book bans during his 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,” Wolchok says, noting that the author is keen to sell banned books at his Key West bookstore. “We’re all furious that these books are still banned – that they’re being pulled from the shelves and kids can’t find themselves in a book just because a parent had a problem with it.”
“I think it parallels what’s happening with reproductive rights,” Pardo adds, referring to how the conservative bloc of U.S. Supreme Court justices voted to overturn Roe vs. Wade Last year. “It’s like ‘Here we go again!’ It never really went away, but it also feels like we’re fighting a battle that should have been over a long time ago.”
clocking in at 97 minutes, Judy Blume forever doesn’t cover every title in Blume’s personal library, but the directors say they devoted one of their days on set to a book-by-book discussion covering his 29 literary works. 1971 Again, maybe I won’t was among the books that didn’t make the final cut, and it was hard for Wolchok in particular to omit.
“I’m raising two boys, and the way [Tony] talks about her fear of having a boner in front of the class [rang true]”, she laughs. “As a mom, I was delighted to be able to give them this book and to have conversations with them about it.
A controversial aspect of Again, maybe I won’t What may have aged badly for progressive and conservative readers are Tony’s amateur attempts at playing voyeur – using binoculars to watch his 16-year-old neighbor strip naked. But Pardo argues that it’s a small part of the novel, and one that’s been exaggerated over the years.
“So that’s not the most important part of this book: it’s really a book about an anxious child, which was so unusual to see at the time,” she notes. “And the bond that Tony feels with his grandmother is one of the most beautiful relationships that Judy has ever written. I was really pushing for this book to be more present in the film, but there was no way to I mean, she’s written 29 books! We had to find the ones that most overlapped with her own life story.
Judy Blume forever premieres April 21 on Prime Video.