American Masters: Itzhak

Born in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine, Itzhak Perlman had the bad luck of contracting polio at four. He had already been denied admission to the Shulamit Conservatory at the precocious age of three. He was too small to hold a violin. He would, of course, eventually get in and he studied. At 72, his life now seems charmed. He performed at the White House and in 2015, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

And yet “there was a most difficult time, when I did not know what was going to happen to me musically because I was to fight the people’s opinion what a person with disability can or cannot do,” Perlman recounted to the press via Skype.

“It was a question mark whether I can do that,” he said. The key moment was when he went to the United States and was on the “Ed Sullivan Show.”  Perlman said, “My parents always believed in me. You get your own inner assurances that you can do thing. I had no doubts. I didn’t dwell on having doubts. I just did my practices.”

Director Alison Chernick noted that this documentary focuses not only on Perlman, but on his relationship with his wife, Toby. Toby is also a classically trained violinist and together they’ve had five children. “We shot for a year, but it was sporadic. The only way to know what works is to know what doesn’t work.”

Series executive producer, Michael Kantor, said, “We like to focus on the great artist” and he was hesitant to focus on Itzhak and Toby as a couple, but in the end, “Batman needs Robin.”

Itzhak joked that when he has trouble at the airport with security, he sometimes longs for Chernick and her intruding lens.

American Masters: Itzhak” premieres on Sunday 14 October 2018.

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