“Waiting For Ishtar” is the name of a documentary feature currently in production from first-time filmmakers John Mitchell and Jonathan Crombie. The “Isthar” in the title refers to writer/director Elaine May’s much-maligned 1987 comedy, starring Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty.
The night of his 39th birthday, Toronto comedy writer/performer and unabashed “Ishtar” fan, John Mitchell was challenged by a newspaper editor to write an article proclaiming and explaining his love for the movie. With a genuine and pathetic sense of glee, Mitchell began his assignment by taking a trip to the public library to put a hold on “Ishtar”. Returning two weeks later to find out why the movie had not arrived, Mitchell was surprised to discover that he was #34 on a list of #47 library members all waiting to borrow “Ishtar”. Realizing that it would take eight and a half months to get his copy, Mitchell began to wonder who else would be willing to wait that long (and longer) to see what critic Roger Ebert called: “A truly dreadful film”. The article quickly turned into the idea for a documentary, to find and interview the 46 other Toronto Public Library members “Waiting For Ishtar”.
Waiting For Ishtar:
What began as a small, home-made movie has grown in scale. This concept has grabbed the attention of writer/director, Elaine May, and former head of production for Columbia Pictures, Julian Schlossberg. Original “Ishtar” cast members, Charles Grodin and Carol Kane have already been interviewed, and later it is planned that others from the original production will be participating. Filmmakers, Mitchell and Crombie have shot over 40 hours of footage and conducted interviews with dozens of subjects: film critics, songwriters, Ishtar fans, writers and directors, including well-known Canadian filmmaker, Don McKellar.
“Waiting For Ishtar” follows John Mitchell as he tries to negotiate his way through the puzzling bureaucracy of a privacy-obsessed public library system, while simaltaneously examining the fate of “The most underestimated commercial movie of 1987” (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader). Part detective search, part impossible quest, “Waiting For Ishtar” takes a humourous look at a struggling musical comedy writer’s obsession with a movie about two struggling songwriters.