Shalom Y'all (2003)

 |  Documentary
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Traveling in a vintage Cadillac, filmmaker Brian Bain, a third generation Jew from New Orleans, sets out on a 4200-mile road trip though the American South. Traveling through Delta ... See full summary »


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Credited cast:
Kinky Friedman ...
Andrew Young ...


Traveling in a vintage Cadillac, filmmaker Brian Bain, a third generation Jew from New Orleans, sets out on a 4200-mile road trip though the American South. Traveling through Delta flatlands, small towns in Mississippi, suburban subdivisions, Texas ranches, and sprawling Sunbelt metropolises what he uncovers is the unique and diverse history of Southern Jews. Along the way, Bain woos his future wife, herself a southern Jew, and discusses Jewish participation in the Civil Rights Movement with Andrew Young. Shalom Y'all is peopled with interesting characters, including Zelda Millstein from Natchez, a hoop-skirted tour guide at a plantation; Leo Center, a Golden Gloves boxing champion from Savannah who learned how to box by literally fighting his way to get to synagogue; Tupelo's Jack Cristil, Mississippi State's football game announcer for nearly a half-century; an African American-Jewish police chief; a kosher butcher; and musician provocateurs Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys. ... Written by National Center for Jewish Film

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A funny, sad, touching, and interesting film.
16 December 2005 | by (Newport Nohwere, Florida) – See all my reviews

This is just a great little documentary that I stumbled on to during my local PBS station's irritating, seemingly monthly pledge drive. If you ever get the chance to see it, I strongly recommend doing so. It's just a wonderfully funny, sad, touching, interesting, quirky little film that explores an aspect of the Jewish experience in America that seems to be mostly overlooked. (of course I'm not Jewish, so for all I know there could be scads of films like this one that I've simply never noticed before, but somehow, given the homogenious nature of the American Media, I doubt that.) Basically, the premise is simply this: there has always been a strong Jewish presence in the American South, dating from colonial days, and it's played a profound part in the development of the region and the country as a whole (The first Jewish senator, for instance, was from Florida in 1845). The film tries to examine what it means to be Jewish and Southern, and looks at how that differs from the Jewish experience in the rest of America. In some ways, it was easier - there seems to have been comparatively little antisemitism in the south, and - as they point out in the film - most southerners didn't care *What* religion you were, just so long as you were religious - but in some ways it was harder, too, as there wasn't a centralized enough presence for Jewish southerners to really define and reinforce themselves as they did in more concentrated population centers like New York and Chicaco. "There wasn't a Jewish community center on every corner," says one character in the film, and he's obviously both proud and sad of that fact at the same time.

Speaking as a southerner myself, it's refreshing to see a film where my own people aren't automatically made out to be screaming cross-burning racists and lunatics, and, on the whole, got along well with another race (For a change). It's also rather heartening to see how integrated into general society Southern Jews are. It's nice to see a positive side to race relations, to know that things actually can work out OK on occasion.

At the same time, there is a very bittersweet examination of the long, slow retreat Judaism has experience in the south since the end of World War II, as more and more people moved to the cities, causing the dwindling, and eventual extinction of the once-flourishing Jewish enclaves in places like Natchez, Mississippi.

Again, it's a fine film, and I can't imagine anyone not enjoying it.

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