Bonnie Rich, Director
Bonnie Rich is an award-winning director, writer and speaker who makes her feature documentary debut with Life is Rich. Bonnie spent most of her career working in higher education as an academic administrator and creative director. But after her daughters graduated college and were pursuing their dreams, Bonnie dared to reimagine her own life. Her marriage of twenty-plus years was humming along swimmingly, so she left her job instead.
Always in pursuit of a funny story, Bonnie went off-the-grid to a yoga teacher training, performed improv, searched for her Jewish soul and picked up her camera to capture it all. She believes in the motto, “Pain + time + matzo ball soup = comedy.” Currently, she’s collaborating with her daughter, Leah, on a series of digital shorts and a road show. Bonnie’s mission is to promote an appreciation of family through storytelling, conversation and laughter.
Since my kids were young and willing, I’ve been casting them in my short, funny films. One of our family classics being Hansolo and Gretel—created during a family trip to the woods of West Virginia. Life is Rich is my first film to hit theaters. My initial inspiration was a desire to share my grandfather's oral history with my daughters. They never met him, and I wanted them to experience how his love of Judaism is intertwined with his story of immigrating to America.
Back in early 1970’s, my mother sat down with my grandfather— Zayde Abe—and a cassette recorder to capture his story. In a heavy Yiddish accent, he told of his childhood growing up in a farming village in Russia. Synagogue was the center of his life, and he was heartbroken when the Bolsheviks shut it down in 1920. Soon after his family escaped to America.
As I delved into Zayde Abe’s story, I also found myself talking to my 20-something daughters about their connection to Judaism. One day, as we discussed the religious obligation of Judaism, I half-jokingly asked, “You’re going to raise my unborn grandchildren Jewish, right?” No one was pregnant. I’m just a planner. First there was dead silence. Then my daughters looked at each other and gently said, “Religion doesn’t seem relevant.”
That shook me. It made me look at my own connection to Judaism. I realized I’d been on Jewish autopilot for years. How could I find a path to love Judaism the way my zayde did? And how could I drag my daughters along with me? I searched for meaningful ways to connect to Judaism, while attempting to force each joyful discovery on my daughters.
And I filmed it all. So, while I still don’t have grandchildren, Life is Rich was born.
My hope is others can laugh and learn from my missteps, and my successes. And that the film can start conversations across generations, build community, and maybe, get you to call your mother.