It took nearly two years for “Judy Bloom Forever” directors Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchuk to convince Judy Bloom to be the subject of a documentary. Bloom, an 84-year-old child and young adult literary juggernaut, lives a quiet life in Key West, Florida, where he owns a bookstore. “I think he was unsure going into this thing that he knew it was going to be a huge time commitment where he would expose himself,” Pardo said. Eventually, the directing duo convinced Bloom to sit in front of their camera, where he discussed not only his career, but also the people and places that influenced his writing. Excerpts from those interviews make up “Judy Bloom Forever,” including contemporary views of Bloom’s life and interviews with authors and celebrities influenced by the author’s candid portraits of childhood and adolescence. The 97-minute documentary does not delve into each of Bloom’s 29 published books. Instead, Pardo and Olchok focus on a few key topics, including “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” “Blubber” and “Superfudge” and they’ve influenced millions of readers.
Amazon will release “Judy Bloom Forever” later this year and it will premiere at Sundance Jan. 21.
Whose idea was it to make a documentary about Judy Bloom?
Pardo: I was a shy, bookish kid who liked and loved reading Judy Bloom, but I didn’t think much of her books as an adult. Then, five years ago, on a long road trip with my husband and kids, I decided to play (Bloom’s) “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” and had this totally visceral reaction of, “Oh my God! This book is so good. .” Suddenly I was looking at Judy with fresh eyes, and I turned to my husband and said, “What happened to Judy Bloom?” And then it became a documentary filmmakers’ curiosity.
Blume has written many fantastic novels. How did you decide which books to focus on?
Wolchok: From the beginning, we highlighted five or six books that we knew intersected with Judy’s personal story and important moments in her life, which influenced the themes and characters of each book. So we wanted those books to take us from childhood through adolescence and then through late adolescence into adulthood.
The docket also includes material from Bloom’s personal archive, including decades of correspondence with fans about divorce, masturbation, sibling rivalry and depression. Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to include characters in the doc?
Pardo: After seeing the letters, I had an appetite to incorporate them into another character in the film.
Two of Bloom’s fans appear in the documentary and have been brave enough to share the letters they wrote to her. How did you convince them to do it?
Wolchok: Judy connected us to them. We were unable to reach those whose letters were read from the archives. This is a very strict protocol from Judy and Yale University, where the letters are kept.
Will Judy stay in Park City?
Wolchok: He will practically be there.
Pardo: He’s 85 in a few weeks, so I think the travel, the altitude and the crowds are too much right now. Also, he is very covid-vigilant, as he should be.