“Waiting For Ishtar” is the name of a documentary feature currently in production from first-time filmmakers John Mitchell and Jonathan Crombie. The “Ishtar” 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, unabashed “Ishtar” fan and Toronto comedy writer/performer, John Mitchell, was challenged by a newspaper editor to write an article proclaiming and explaining his love for the movie. It was with a genuine and pathetic sense of glee that Mr. Mitchell began the assignment by taking a trip to the local library to put a hold on “Ishtar”. Returning two weeks later to find out why the movie had not arrived, Mr. Mitchell was surprised to discover that he was #34 on a list of #47 library patrons all waiting to borrow “Ishtar”. Realizing that it would take eight and a half months to get his copy, Mitchell wondered who else would be willing to wait that long (and longer) to see a what critic Roger Ebert called: “a truly dreadful film”. The article quickly turned into the idea for a documentary: to track down 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. The project has attracted the attention of “Ishtar” writer/director Elaine May and former head of production for Columbia Pictures, Julian Schlossberg. Original “Ishtar” cast members, Charles Grodin and Carol Kane have been interviewed, and later it is planned that others from the original production will take part. To date, filmmakers Mitchell and Crombie have shot over 40 hours of footage and conducted interviews with dozens of subjects: film critics, writers, directors, and well-known personalities, including Canadian filmmaker, Don McKellar.
“Waiting For Ishtar” follows Mr. Mitchell as he tries to negotiate his way through the puzzling bureaucracy of a privacy-obsessed public library system, while simaltaneously exploring the fate of “The most underestimated commercial movie of 1987” (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader). Part detective search, part impossible quest, “Waiting For Ishtar” is also a humourous examination of a struggling musical comedy writer’s obsession with a movie about two struggling songwriters.