Legendary author Judy Blume couldn’t help but remark on how emotional it was for her to watch a documentary about her storied life at the world premiere of Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok’s Amazon Studios documentary Judy Blume Forever.
“Oh my god, it’s so weird to see yourself and, you know, your life. It’s like you’re looking at somebody else,” Blume said over Zoom during a Q&A after the premiere screening on Saturday at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. “I love watching everybody else. But then when I was on screen, it’s like, ‘Who is that woman? And she needs a good haircut.’”
Blume’s loveable wit caused laughter to erupt throughout the Park Avenue Theater multiple times on Saturday, both during the movie — which includes extensive interviews with the author as well as voiceover — and after.
“I cried, of course,” Blume said of watching the film. “It’s very, very, very emotional.”
Judy Blume Forever tells Blume’s life story, from growing up in suburban New Jersey in the 1940s and 1950s to getting the courage to start writing books as a housewife in the 1960s. The film follows Blume, now 83 years old, through two marriages and divorces; the births and upbringing of her two children, Randy and Larry Blume; and finally to her third and most successful marriage to her current husband George Cooper.
It also covers the outpouring of love from children all over the world — and the backlash that Blume faced in the 1980s during the Reagan administration when her books, especially those with descriptions of sex, puberty, and masturbation like Forever… and Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret, were at the top of banned book lists in libraries and schools across the country.
Today, Blume’s books are still being banned, though the top of the banned books list is more filled with stories concerning gender identity, race, and queer sexuality. Blume noted that the way books are banned today has changed a lot from what she experienced in the 1980s.
“I think there’s much more fear. You know, teachers and librarians were often afraid then of losing their jobs. Today, their lives are being threatened in some places,” she said. “It’s horrendous. And unless we all speak out, it’s going to happen. That’s what I tell the kids, is: if you care about any of these books, any books at all, and you’re not willing to stand up, then they are going to be removed. Now kids can’t do it by themselves. They’re dependent upon adults, but there have been kids that have taken petitions around and gone before school boards. Now today, it probably wouldn’t work. So I think we’re in a really difficult, dangerous place.”
Judy Blume Forever also featured interviews with several modern cultural leaders, pop culture icons, and authors of newer banned books, all of whom shared what Blume’s books meant to them as kids and teens. Among them were Lena Dunham, Molly Ringwald, and Samantha Bee.
Directors Wolchok and Pardo are among her biggest fans.
“I grew up reading Judy Blume,” Pardo said. “Her books were the ones that I kind of went back to again and again until they were threadbare.”
A wide release date for the film, which comes from Amazon Studios, has yet to be announced.
Main Image: A still from Judy Blume Forever by Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.