Film: Zelig (Woody Allen, 1983)
A 'mockumentary' or fictional documentary played and directed by Woody Allen. The film highlights the life and period of Leonard Zelig, the 'human chameleon', whose overwhelming desire to conform is reflected in the ability to take on to the face and physical characteristics of whomever he happens to meet.
Lecture: The Human Chameleon
Zelig, the 'human chameleon', is a barely disguised modern adaptation of the figure of the Wandering Jew, who was often mocked and debased for having nothing of his own but what he borrows from other nations. Beginning with the Wandering Jew and Zelig, the lecture will explore representations of many 'chameleonic' or 'hybrid' Jewish figures in cinema: Jewish characters that - like Zelig - change their appearance, transform their identity and infiltrate other cultures. We will explore strange mixtures of Jewish characters and themes with genres that usually do not include Jews (for example the western or the blaxploitation genres), and we'll see not only how Jews function within typically non-Jewish genres, but also how these genres are reshaped and challenged by the peculiar intrusion of chameleon Jews.