Michael Roemer

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Michael Roemer
Born (1928-01-01) January 1, 1928 (age 91)
OccupationFilm director, producer, writer, professor

Michael Roemer (born January 1, 1928) is a film director, producer and writer. He has won several awards for his films. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. A professor at Yale University, he is the author of Telling Stories.

Early years[edit]

Roemer was born to a well-to-do Jewish family[1] in Berlin, Germany. After the Nazis came to power in 1933 and began restricting the rights of Jews to work, his father and his grandfather found themselves unable to work and provide for the family, and eventually lost everything. At the age of 11, Roemer was sent out of Germany[1] on one of the Kindertransports.[2] In England, he attended Bunce Court School,[3] a German Jewish school for refugees, both pupils and staff. There, he met Wilhelm Marckwald, an actor and former director of the Deutsches Theater Berlin and also a refugee. The playwright Frank Marcus and the painter Frank Auerbach were two of his friends at Bunce Court.[4] Roemer emigrated to the United States in 1945.

Roemer received his A.B. degree from Harvard University in 1949.[5] While at Harvard, Roemer directed his first film, A Touch of the Times,[6] possibly the first feature film produced at an American college.[7] After graduating, he worked for Louis de Rochemont for eight years as a production manager, film editor, and as an assistant director. He later wrote, produced and directed a series of educational films for the Ford Foundation.

Independent filmmaker[edit]

His feature-length film, Nothing But a Man won two awards at the Venice Film Festival,[7] as well as critical acclaim in France. It did not, however, do well in the United States until it was re-released in 1993.[1] Writing the screenplay, Roemer drew on his own background as a Jew in Nazi Germany, where his family had everything taken away from them and his father and grandfather were unable to provide for the family[1] because of the Nazi's increasingly restrictive laws concerning the rights of Jews. The movie's Motown soundtrack came about by chance. George Schiffer, a classmate of Roemer's at Harvard, had his law office around the corner from where Roemer was editing the film. Over lunch one day, Roemer told him about the movie and Schiffer suggested he listen to some music he had from a new client, a small record label just starting out in Detroit, Michigan. Roemer loved the music and acquired the rights from Motown owner Berry Gordy for $5,000.[1] After the film was re-released, The Washington Post called it "one of the most sensitive films about black life ever made in this country", and in 1994 it was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.[1]

Roemer's film, The Plot Against Harry, a comedy, was made in 1969, but found no one to distribute it because no one found it funny.[1] Twenty years later, he decided to put all of his movies on videotape as a gift to his children.[8] Discovering that the technician who was making the transfer was laughing hard at the film, Roemer decided to make two 35 mm prints and submitted them to film festivals in New York and Toronto. Both festivals accepted the film and commercial distribution and acclaim followed.[8] The film won the Rosa camuna award at the Bergamo film meeting in 1990.[9]

Roemer was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1971[10] and began teaching at Yale University in 1966.[11] Roemer was interviewed for the 1996 documentary about the Kindertransports, My Knees Were Jumping.[2]


  • Telling Stories: Postmodernism and the Invalidation of Traditional Narrative (1997) University Press of America, Inc. ISBN 1-57309-035-2
  • Film Stories, Vol. 1, Scarecrow Press (2001) ISBN 0-8108-3909-1
  • Film Stories, Vol. 2, Scarecrow Press (2001) ISBN 978-0-8108-3911-3
  • Shocked But Connected: Notes on Laughter, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (2012) ISBN 978-1442217560

Filmography (selected list)[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Vicki Vasilopoulos, "New Life for a 1964 Film" The New York Times (November 14, 2004). Retrieved October 20, 2011
  2. ^ a b Janet Maslin, "Children Were Saved, but So Much Was Lost" The New York Times (December 2, 1998). Retrieved October 20, 2011
  3. ^ John O'Mahony, "Surfaces and depths" The Guardian (September 15, 2001). Retrieved October 19, 2011
  4. ^ Andrew Lambirth, "Master of accretion"[permanent dead link] The Spectator (January 2, 2010). Retrieved October 20, 2011
  5. ^ William H. Smock, "Michael Roemer: Silhouette" The Harvard Crimson (March 4, 1965). Retrieved October 28, 2011
  6. ^ "Nan Goldin & Pawel Wojtasik present: Nothing But A Man" Archived 2011-11-16 at the Wayback Machine UnionDocs (UnDo). Retrieved October 19, 2011
  7. ^ a b Michael Roemer bio Archived 2011-09-15 at the Wayback Machine San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. Retrieved October 28, 2011
  8. ^ a b Susan King, "MICHAEL ROEMER: Unraveling 'The Plot Against Harry'" Los Angeles Times (May 26, 1991). Retrieved October 19, 2011
  9. ^ http://www.bergamofilmmeeting.it/Premi
  10. ^ "1971: Creative Arts - Film" John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved October 28, 2011
  11. ^ Michael Upchurch, "Michael Roemer's `Plot' Sees The Light Of Day Again" The Seattle Times (February 24, 1990). Retrieved October 19, 2011

External links[edit]