This year's Boston Jewish Film Festival runs from November 7 through November 19 and will feature 45 films at 10 locations. We chatted with Amy Geller, filmmaker and new artistic director for the festival, about her role, Jewish film, and what it takes to make it into the festival.
Fourteen years ago you were the associate director for the Boston Jewish Film Festival, and now you have returned as its artistic director. How has the festival and the films submitted changed over that period of time?
One thing that I’ve really noticed is a difference in the quality of Israeli films; it’s been a quantum leap in terms of where things were and where they are now. I’m reminded of the American independent film movement of the 1990s with young, maverick filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, the Coen brothers. This new group of Israeli filmmakers are coming up with creative ways of telling groundbreaking stories on a very low budget. There are all these film school graduates breaking the form. Also, the number of films being made, in general, has skyrocketed because of the advances in and access to less expensive technology.
What makes this a "Jewish" film festival?
When I look at the films for the festival, I look for Jewish content. Yes, this is a very subjective thing to do, but I ask myself, How will this resonate? How will this connect with our audience? I can be watching a film by a Jewish director, but the film might not be “Jewish.” I look for certain characters, scenes, themes that I can identify as Jewish.
What's more gratifying: producing your own vision in a film, or helping other artists express their visions by being included in a film festival?
Filmmaking and film curation have similar creative processes; both are a lot of work. When you make a film, you are judged for your artistic vision. And when you program a festival, you are judged for your overall aesthetic sensibility. However, in each case, it’s important to take risks and put yourself out there. Right now I’m jumping out of my skin to help talented artists be exposed to new and hungry audiences through the festival, as well as our year-round programming.
What is your favorite movie that would never be shown at any sort of film festival?
My favorite movie from my youth is Grease. I have seen the film over 25 times and can recite entire scenes. I probably would never program it at a film festival, but it's my guilty pleasure. Whenever it's on TV, I always stop and watch it and start belting out the songs: “I got chills. They're multiplyin'. And I'm losin' control. 'Cause the power you're supplyin', it's electrifyin'!” I mean, it doesn’t get better than that!
Four Questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the Greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!
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