“Wendy’s Shabbat,” a short documentary featuring 88-year-old Lawrence native Roberta Mahler, will hold its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival Saturday. The film follows Mahler and other Jewish retirees who for the past eight years have been holding their Friday night sabbath dinner at a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant in Palm Desert, California.
The short film has been generating a measure of publicity in the run-up to the festival. It is scheduled to be featured on “Megyn Kelly Today” Friday morning, and its trailer has been viewed more than 71,000 times at the website wendysshabbat.com.
“We shot it not having any expectation that the film would have the breadth that it has,” says director Rachel Myers, who is Mahler’s granddaughter. “We’ve received a huge amount of public attention recently. And that’s really been a delight.”
Myers, a Los Angeles production designer making her directorial debut, says she attended the event with her grandmother and immediately envisioned it as a movie. Myers’ mother, Abby, a retired elementary school principal, served as producer, making the film a three-generation project. Other crew, such as editor, cinematographer and field producer, came from Rachel Myers’ contacts in the film industry. And fortunately, Myers says, the branch manager at the chosen Wendy’s gave the crew permission to film on site.
“We tend to see stories of older people as sick or dying, and we don’t see stories about people in later life celebrating, and finding connection and community,” Myers says. “These are people who, generationally, might have had more dinner parties than young people do now. But this was a really accessible, affordable way that they could congregate in a public space. And it’s warm and welcoming. And nobody has to do the dishes.”