Family Affairs: The New Jersey Jewish Film Festival
Periodically I like to point out interesting cultural events that readers might be interested in. Today, I’d like to introduce you to my father, Herbert S. Ford, who founded the New Jersey Film Festival. If you live in the area you should try to attend. In the post below he ruminates on the importance of film and recommends some films we should check out. Ford is a partner in Marcus Brody Ford Kessler & Sahner, LLC, a boutique New Jersey law firm where he practices commercial real estate and business law.
I have often wondered why there are no Irish, Italian, Spanish, Hispanic, Mexican or South American or other film festivals in the New York metropolitan area, the most diverse and artistically strong? Certainly there are high quality films made that fit all those categories. Perhaps some festivals exist but they are below my radar? I hope so. Certainly, The New Jersey Jewish Film Festival, which opens tonight, is below the radar of many.
The Eighth Annual New Jersey Jewish Film Festival will continue through Sunday, April 6, 2008, and will screen twenty one films from seven countries in six venues in northern New Jersey. Most of the films are from Israel whose high qualify filmmakers now produce some of the most subtle and challenging films made anywhere in the world. The Festival is a clone of many Jewish film festivals through out the US, but especially the Washington Jewish Film Festival whose former director, Joshua Ford (my son), was kind enough to share his ideas with me so I could pass them on to our Festival.
Since I am one of the founders of the Festival, I am often asked what is best film being screened? On top of my list is Steal a Pencil for Me being screened on Tuesday April 1, 2008. Jack, one of the two main characters in Steal a Pencil for Me, says as it opens: “I’m a very special Holocaust survivor. I was in the camps with my wife and my girlfriend; and believe me, it wasn’t easy.” Jack and Ina, now his wife (formerly the “girlfriend” more than sixty years ago) will be at the screening and participate in a post screening discussion. The film is a love story that includes the worst and best of Jewish life over the past seventy years. The film demonstrates how just a little hope can keep you alive if you also very lucky. Although there are millions of unhappy stories that occurred simultaneously, the film deserves our attention as do the living participants.
Tonight’s opening night film, Aviva My Love, is an Israeli feature film in which the main character is a middle aged women aspiring to be a writer who must deal with her roles as mother, bread winner and her relationship with a famous mentor. Closing night’s film, Noodle, is another Israeli feature whose the main character, a stewardess, tries to reunite a child with his mother, an illegal Asian immigrant recently deported by Israeli government involuntarily leaving the child behind. An actress from Noodle will be doing post screening discussion on closing night. Another of my favorites is Praying with Lior, a documentary about a high functioning disabled boy who excels at prayer and the struggles his family faces so he may complete the ritual of Jewish manhood. Lior and his family members will be doing a post screening discussion. I will not miss one of these films even though I was fortunate to see preview copies.
There are perhaps fifty or more Jewish Film Festivals through out the North America, including New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, Boston, Toronto, Atlanta, Palm Beach and many more), and around the world according to the National Foundation for Jewish Culture that organizes conferences of Jewish Film Festivals every few years. Recently my Rabbi, just to nudge me, sent me a flyer about the Jewish Film Festival in Biloxi. Those in proximity to these festivals are rewarded by feature and documentary films that will never make it to the local art theater or to the NetFlix list or into a Blockbuster store. The most rewarding festival experiences are the post screening discussions with the director, actor or one of the participants of the film. When someone steps out of a film and onto the stage, the magic can begin.
With so much of the film industry homogenized and dumbed down, festivals are one of the few opportunities for seeing original work that has not be stamped out by “the film industry” or tampered with or adjusted to heighten the marketing appeal to teenagers. So look into your local festivals or the big one in your backyard, be it New Director/New Films at Lincoln Center, Tribecca, the Hamptons Film Festival or Sundance. The magic will be there.