Lucky Melvyn Pfferberg, protagonist of comedy short film, The Five Wives & Lives of Melvyn Pfferberg, has a gadget that does that and more: a time machine that transports him in and out of a Jewish speed-dating event to a possible future he could share with each woman he meets.
Damian Samuels, who co-wrote, directs and plays the title role, insists the film isn’t based on his experiences. “I’ve only ever been to one Jewish speed-dating event, which was a disaster, but the film comes from no real place whatsoever. It’s a complete fantasy.”
That sense of fantasy runs throughout the film. It’s not in a set location and it’s largely silent: the only two characters in the film talk gobbledegook. Samuels continues: “There are no guns, drugs, sex, cars or houses. There’s an old TV and an old phone. I wanted to create a world that doesn’t exist, like in Amélie.”
The accent of this magical world is firmly on fun, even if dating elicits angst-ridden memories for some. Samuels says: “Whenever I tell anyone about the concept, they say: ‘I wish I’d had a time machine when I’d gone dating!’ All I want is for people to have a great time. There are at least five or six definite laughs in the film.”
The director and producer started life as an actor – he’s still recognised in the streets for his role in Basement Jaxx’s Where’s Your Head At video – before branching out. He lists his influences as Woody Allen and Mel Brooks, two legends who also made and starred in their own films and who inspire the Jewishness of Samuels’ work as well.
He explains: “A lot of Jewish films out there are quite serious; they’re about Israel and conflict or Orthodox issues. Many UK productions are stereotyped, with characters talking in that weird ‘Jewish’ accent. There isn’t anything wonderfully silly and that’s what I wanted to make.”
Cue a randy rabbi character, magen Davids and klezmer music throughout. As Samuels says, this film feels “almost American in its unapologetic Jewish nature”.
The film has screened successfully in the US and Japan and it’s set for its UK premiere at JW3, alongside a screening of The Pickle Recipe, as part of the UK Jewish Film Festival.
The Five Wives & Lives of Melvyn Pfferberg shows at JW3 on 20 November at 7pm. Details: jw3.org.uk