Knishes at the Quad Tonight!


As part of the Manhattan Film Festival, “If These Knishes Could Talk: The Story of the New York Accent,” will be showing at Quad Cinema June 21st!

 “Knishes” is a documentary about the New York accent – what it is, how it fits with a New Yorker’s identity, and if it’s disappearing as New York changes. It stars Penny Marshall, Alan Dershowitz, Charles Rangel, and a cast of characters from Pelham Bay to Tottenville. It also features the accent in sign language and on Twitter. Go know!

Film-maker Heather Quinlan’s relentless investigation of the subject covers every conceivable base: from experts like linguists, historians and speech pathologists…to nitty gritty New Yorkers from all walks of life and every imaginable ethnicity…to well known native New York celebrities like Penny Marshall, Pete Hamill, Alan Dershowitz, Charlie Rangel, Amy Heckerling, and James McBride. 

As you can imagine, the common denominator amongst all this diversity is New York attitude, toughness, bluntness and humor. The title (which I’ve never been crazy about) makes more sense when you learn its source in the movie. Alan Dershowitz says, “If knishes could talk they would have a Brooklyn accent.” We learn that African American Charlie Rangel talks the way he talks because he grew up in a Jewish neighborhood. A kitchen full of Italians kibbitzes around a table — one of them says, “Hey! If you don’t like the way I talk, fuck you!” (There’s your pull quote for the poster). We meet such interesting people.  Two garbagemen: a Korean from Staten Island, and an Irishman from the Rockaways who is studying Gaelic on a Fullbright. And our own Michele Carlo carries the agua for the Puerto Ricans. Quinlan even takes us down to New Orleans to meet two guys who have a remarkably similar accent to the New Yorkers — similar history, same ethnic groups merging.

And in the last act, she gives us the changing city as it is today: gentrification, with the poor and working class being pushed out, and the extreme likelihood that the accent will be gone in a couple of generations. As in her previous short O Brooklyn, My Brooklyn, one walks away with reverence for Quinlan’s wicked sense of humor, but the OVER-RIDING takeaway is her immense love for this city and its people. She is an artist of the first water. Her poetic populism appeals to the sentimental vaudevillian in me, and frankly make me bawl with happiness, which is why I sat in the back row. It resonated big time with the audience last night, and it’s already got her massive attention from NY-1, NPR, New York Times, Wall Street Journal etc etc. I envision  the city’s Dept of Tourism screening this and selling the DVDs in Times Square. I really don’t think I’m getting carried away.

Tickets can be bought here:

And more information about the film is here:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: