That Mennonite Joke

Comedian Matt Falk is on a quest to craft the most hilarious act in history. To do that, he must go on a comedic walkabout through his Mennonite heritage.

Creative team

Writer/director: Orlando Braun
Producer: Jorge Requena-Ramos

Filmmaker’s statement

It’s time that North American audiences saw a side of Mennonites that has never been portrayed in film or television before – to really show, from the inside, how hilarious they are.

Every time “Mennonite” appears in the television news, or in film, it’s usually a somber/serious story. This film is overdue to break that mold.

“Mennonites are HOT right now” – Avi Federgreen, IndieCan Entertainment.

In a recent discussion with Canadian distributor Avi Federgreen of IndieCan Entertainment, he enlightened me to the fact that there’s an obvious sense of curiosity about this subject in today’s audiences. TV networks are trying to tap into the Mennonite world with programs like TLC’s Breaking Amish, DIY Network’s Vanilla Ice Goes Amish, Nat Geo’s Mennonite Made and more.

While the curiosity is apparent, unfortunately the authenticity factor often seems to be missing. This film will be that candid glimpse into the Mennonite culture that will bring people in on the joke. It’s a way to embrace the culture from an inclusive approach rather than an exclusive one.

A brief history on Mennonites: as a group, they were formed by Menno Simons, a Dutch priest, as part of the Anabaptist movement. Because of their pacifist beliefs – not a popular stance during times of war – they had been persecuted and fled from many European countries and Russia, landing in the Americas (North, Central and South). And this is possibly where their sense of humour derives from … when times are tough, humour emerges. And this has stuck with the group ever since.

I’m likely the best person to tell this story not only because I’m a filmmaker with the access, but I was also born on a Mennonite colony in Paraguay before my family migrated to Canada. I remained part of the Mennonite community in Canada and actively maintained many aspects of my culture including cooking and speaking Plautdietsch [Low German]. I’m fluent in the language and humour was an intrinsic part of my upbringing.

It actually surprised me when I realized the outside world did not consider Mennonites funny or even having a sense of humour! I have lived this world, and now I know this subject better than anyone else in this industry. Not only am I the best person to tell this story, I might be the only one to do it well.

Lastly, a conflict that arises is that many North American youth of Mennonite heritage (and as ANY heritage) feel they’re losing their culture, as though the culture is dying (Low German along with it), and Matt feels like it might be too late to resurge. Other Mennonite entertainers argue that it can be kept alive and they are in fact doing it – keeping the culture alive through its humour.

It is my aim that viewers will not only learn something about Mennonites, but also be inspired to dig into their own roots, talk to their own grandparents with a thirst to want to learn more about their own past and restore/enhance the pride in their cultural heritage.

About Orlando Braun

Orlando Braun

Orlando Braun is an award-winning Canadian filmmaker for film and television and founder of Prairie Boy Productions.

He received his bachelor of arts in film at the University of Manitoba and a masters of fine arts in producing from the New York Film Academy in Universal Studios, California.

Orlando was selected for the Telefilm Canada Producers Mentorship in 2012 through the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA). As a result he worked with Merit Motion Pictures on business affairs and production management on award-winning theatrical and television documentaries for broadcasters like CBC’s DocZone and The Nature of Things, PBS Nature, Smithsonian Channel, OLN, TVO and more.

In addition to documentaries, he has also worked in business affairs on the TV series Polar Bear Town.

Orlando has worked in New York and Los Angeles with industry professionals such as Robert DeNiro’s Tribeca Film, Manage-Ment (Garden State), Platinum Studios (Cowboys & Aliens) and Film Independent (Spirit Awards, LA Film Festival).

Short films produced by Orlando include It Is What It Is, the musical, which won best musical short at the New York Independent Film Festival 2011 and best director and best ensemble Cast at BAFF (Best Actor Film Festival) 2011.

He completed a half-dozen short films over two years including War Bride commissioned by China’s LeTV in 2012. War Bride, 725 and Becoming Lucy premiered at the 2013 Festival de Cannes in the Short Film Corner followed by numerous official selections in other festivals and award wins.

His 30-minute TV documentary Graffiti Stories, created for MTS Stories From Home, was the first film produced under the Prairie Boy Productions banner and was nominated for the Canadian Screen Awards 2015 diversity award. It won the award of excellence in filmmaking at the 2015 Canada International Film Festival.

Prior to producing for film and television, Orlando worked on the television provider side as a business analyst for MTS TV. The strong business skills and creative appetite he honed there helped form the foundation to becoming a successful creative producer.

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