N.H. Jewish Film Festival debuts virtually this month

This year, the 13th annual New Hampshire Jewish Film Festival will be a virtual affair, as films from the United States, Israel, Ethiopia, Germany, Italy, Norway, Poland and Switzerland will be screened. Eleven feature films will be making their N.H. premieres. 

Darren Garnick of Amherst is one of many media volunteers around the state. Under non-COVID circumstances, the films would be shown at theaters across N.H.

“Usually, we’ll partner with theaters in Keene, Hanover and Portsmouth,” he said. “There’s such a great indie spirit in New Hampshire. There’s also the N.H. Film Festival and of course, Wilton has the town hall theater. There’s just a lot of energy and support for independent films, especially in the Souhegan Valley.”

The N.H. Jewish Film Fest also partners with the Monadnock International Film Festival, by promoting each other’s films. 

Garnick said attendees who purchase a pass to watch the films in the NHJFF have a 72 hour window in which to complete their viewing of each film. 

“Because of COVID, the focus of the screenings has gone from the theater to the home,” he said. “Film is very communal. There’s something about watching a movie with somebody else, even if you’re not talking with them. There’s just something special about sharing that experience with someone else.”

NHJFF co-chair and volunteer Ross Fishbein said last year’s festival was a stripped-down version as a virtual event, but historically, it’s been an in-person ten-day event with screenings around the state. 

“This year we have a three-week virtual festival,” Fishbein said. “We have three screening committees; we have a group of pre-screeners and with our relationships with directors or the distributors of a lot of these films, we typically get anywhere from 65 to 100 submissions a year to look at.”

After the pre-screeners sift through the many submitted films, a general screening committee that watches everything that the pre-screeners have approved. 

“There’s about 15 people on that committee, including co-chair Pat Kalik and myself,” Fishbein said. “Then we have the ‘young adult screening committee,’ which is actually 30 and 40-somethings, who screen a subset of films. We chose the ones that we think might appeal to a ‘younger’ audience.”

Volunteer Ann Fabian of Nashua is part of the screening committee and has been involved with the festival for over seven years. She said she and her husband were invited to join and they screen all the films that make the festival. 

“My husband and I thought this type of thing would be a good date-night,” she said. “But once you got there, it was so nice to meet other people. We’re very active in our Jewish community but it was nice to meet the other communities. And the movies are like an education. You think you know everything until you see these films.”

Fabian said the goal in screening films is to find a universal appeal that would apply to all ages. She said sometimes that works, other times not so much. 

“Everybody has a different opinion of what they like in movies,” she said. “But we try to have a variety of what’s out there.”

This year was the most difficult, Fabian said, because so many indie films appear on Netflix or other streaming platforms. 

“If we picked something that we liked and found out it was already airing on TV, we picked something else,” she said. “There are eleven diverse films and truthfully, I didn’t like them all. But everybody has an opinion and everybody votes on which films make the cut.”

Fabian said it was interesting that everyone watched the same films and yet many walked away with different opinions. 

“Screening these films, it makes you feel really good, to speak with your friends and recommend that they see this movie,” she said. “I say, ‘I saw that and it’s worth seeing.’”

References : https://www.cabinet.com/news/cabinet-news/2021/05/13/n-h-jewish-film-festival-debuts-virtually-this-month/

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