NEW YORK – As Dov Charney, the founder of American Apparel, sees it, what could be more American than bar mitzvahs?
Charney, the often outspoken and controversial entrepreneur, launched a promotional campaign last November with the authors of “Bar Mitzvah Disco” (Crown), a book of photographs and essays chronicling bar mitzvahs through the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties. Soon after, photographs of awkward 13-year-olds in puffy dresses and ill-fitted suits were sharing window space with underwear-clad models in more than 50 American Apparel stores across the nation.
Now, American Apparel and the creators of “Bar Mitzvah Disco” — Roger Bennett, Jules Shell and Nick Kroll — have partnered to create “Bar Mitzvah Disco: The Movie.” Like the book, which is in its third printing, the full-length documentary will be made up of submissions, this time in the form of home videos shot by what Bennett calls “the greatest generation.”
“We can’t manufacture this,” he said. “The book is a found history that depends on people from across the country. On the surface, it’s funny, and the film is a direct extension of that, but it’s also serious and telling of a generation. It shows the style, culture and fashion — or lack of fashion — that we grew up with.”
Videos can be submitted via the barmitzvahdisco.com Web site. As the videos come in, they will be played at more than 50 American Apparel stores nationwide. Bennett noted that the American Apparel demographic is crucial to “pulling off this amateur-hour sociology experiment.”
“We’re all about American products, and the bar mitzvah [extravaganza] is distinctly American,” Charney said. “It’s not just for Jewish kids. Every kid who’s had fine schooling has been to a bar mitzvah at least once.”
So far, Bennett said, he’s accumulated a few hundred videos, which he’s handling with “loving care” before returning them to their owners. But he foresees a deluge of submissions after Passover.
“When you’re at your parents’ house for Passover, there’s a moment of boredom where you go into the attic and find your old bar mitzvah video,” he said. “The real crux time is at Passover.”