Director aimed to make dramedy ‘Dough’ uplifting

Jerome Holder (left) and Jonathan Pryce star in ‘Dough.’

By Cate Marquis, Special to the Jewish Light

The warm comedic drama “Dough” stars British actor Jonathan Pryce (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) as an old Orthodox Jewish baker who runs a struggling kosher bakery in a changing London neighborhood and takes on a teenage African boy as an assistant  without realizing he is Muslim. What follows changes their lives. 

The dramedy first played here last year during the St. Louis Jewish Film Festival. 

The Jewish Light reached “Dough” producer and director John Goldschmidt for an interview last week. Here is part of that conversation, edited for length and clarity.

What inspired the film and how did you get involved in the project?

First of all, the writer, Jez Freedman [Yehuda Jeremy Freedman], came to me to read screenplays I might have been sent. I told him what I was really looking for was an original idea, a comedic drama that had something to say about the state of the world, something with humility and heart. … Four months later, he came back and told me his friend Jonathan Benson, whom he meets every week at the synagogue, [had] an idea about an old Jewish baker and a cleaning lady’s son. [Mother and son] are from Africa, and the boy’s been selling cannabis. It gets into the bread, and this bakery that was doing really badly, because most of his Jewish customers have moved to a more prosperous part of town, [suddenly starts to do well]. It struck me as a really interesting idea … so I commissioned the screenplay, as the producer and director. 



Are you Jewish?

I’m of Jewish descent but I’m not observant. The writer [was] a very observant Orthodox Jew, for whom that side of his life was paramount.

The real Jewish heart of the film originated with Jez (Freedman) and his family, and that was very much his contribution. I knew exactly who to cast, exactly how to film something, exactly how to get the music right, I was interested in the whole social issues, what the film is saying politically, but in terms of a religious content, it was very much Jez’s contribution, and that’s why I think we got it right.


The film played at several Jewish and non-Jewish film festivals. How has it been received?

The film did receive an incredibly warm reception. Every screening was sold out but, in several screenings, people rose to their feet and applauded at the end of the film. …I think we live in quite dark times, and I wanted to deal with serious issues but in a way that would enable people to leave the cinema with a smile on their faces. And it seems to be a crowd-pleasing film.


Now “Dough” is getting a wider theatrical release. That has to be thrilling.

Well, of course. I was very keen for the film to come out in America first, because there was a tradition of Jewish films or Jewish humor in the cinema. And what works in America tends to work everywhere else in the Western world. I think the distributor [Menemsha Films] wanted to sort of nurture the film, so it came out in Florida first, in a kind of prerelease, and the response of the audience there was fantastic. So they were talking about it as a sort of sleeper hit, which is suddenly being discovered by people. And that is why there are so many different cinemas in the U.S. asking for the film.


I thought this story could as easily been told as a drama, so why do a comedy?

Well, it is not a hilarious kind of comedy, from my point of view. It is a gentle comedic drama. … Americans use the term ‘dramedy’ … a drama with a light touch. … There are so many tragic stories about Jews, so many documentaries that are very serious, so I wanted to make a film that was uplifting and positive. Having a light comedic touch makes the film more accessible, makes the message of the film less heavy-handed. And it is obviously something audiences are likely to respond to, and I think that has worked.

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Check out Cate Marquis’ review of “Dough” last year, when the film was featured during the St. Louis Jewish Film Festival. Visit