The extraordinary and little-known story behind Billie Holiday’s song Strange Fruit.
Director, screenplay, production, and editing: Joel Katz US 2002, documentary, 57 min., English OV Cinematography: John Miglietta, Thomas Torres
Many people associate Billie Holiday with Strange Fruit, one of her signature songs. But few are aware that it
wasn’t Billie Holiday who composed the lyrics, but a Jewish high school teacher and union activist from the
Bronx, Abel Meeropol. Troubled by a photo of a lynching, Meeropol penned both the stark poem and its
haunting melody in the late 1930s under the pseudonym Lewis Allan. STRANGE FRUIT is not only a film about
the story behind the legendary song, but also a fascinating portrait of Abel Meeropol and his wife Anne: they
adopted the children of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed in 1953.
(selection) Seattle International Film Festival 2002, Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival 2003, Singapore International Film Festival 2003, Viennale 2003
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Filmmaker and educator Joel Katz lives in Montclair, New Jersey. His oeuvre encompasses documentaries, experimental films, and essay films screened at numerous film festivals around the world. Some have been included in the permanent collection of the MOMA in New York. Joel Katz has been a professor at the Media Arts Department at New Jersey City University since 1996. He was in Mainz, Germany, as a Fulbright Senior Scholar in 2008 and served on the board of Third World Newsreel from 1999 to 2016. He has served on the Advisory Board of the Black Maria Film Festival since 2011.