When Jews Were Funny named best Canadian feature at TIFF

Alan Zweig's documentary, which probes the origins of Jewish comedy, earned a $30,000 prize.
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Alan Zweig on Sunday won the best Canadian feature prize for his documentary When Jews Were Funny as the Toronto International Film Festival wrapped its 2013 edition.

“Honey: I think we’ll get a new kitchen,” the filmmaker told his wife as he accepted a trophy and $30,000 prize.

Zweig’s film probes the origins of Jewish comedy from Borsht belt-to-early TV veterans like Shelley Berman, Jack Carter and Shecky Greene to the present.

The Toronto filmmaker recalled 24 years earlier winning the then Festival of Festival award for best short film, which came with a $1000 prize.

“It’s weird. This is a little lesson in something,” Zweig told the TIFF audience when accepting the best Canadian feature honour.

The festival jury cited When Jews Were Funny for “its deeply moving exploration of memory, identity and community and for its coherent and profoundly humourous representation of the personal as universal.”

There was also a special citation for performances in Peter Stebbing’s Empire of Dirt by Jennifer Podemski, Cara Gee and Shay Eyre.

Also Sunday, the $15,000 prize for best first Canadian feature went to Shayne Ehman and Seth Scriver for the animated road movie Asphalt Watches.

And the best Canadian short film prize was awarded to Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg for Noah.

“I just wanted to thank Pat. He’s my best buddy and we did everything together,” said Woodman on accepting the prize at the Intercontinental Hotel gathering on Sunday.

Noah, a 17-minute film that plays out on a teenager’s computer screen, was viewed by 584,000 times on TIFF’s dedicated YouTube channel, as of Sunday.