24th Toronto Jewish Film Festival | May 4-14, 2017

Artistic Director's Welcome



Over the years, TJFF has been fortunate to work with various advertising agencies who have offered to design pro-bono marketing campaigns to help us get our message out to the public and attract new audiences to the Festival.

They produce these campaigns out of generosity and a desire to share their creativity. As a result, many marketing contests and honours have been won over the years for TJFF campaigns.

This is a relationship where everyone benefits. We get a campaign worth many thousands of dollars that we could not afford to produce on our own, while the agencies end up with award-winning additions to their portfolios.

This year, when Debbie Werner, our executive director, and I went to the first meeting with our new ad agency (FCB), we were asked by their chief creative officer, Jon Flannery, “Why do you do this? Why do you continue to run the Toronto Jewish Film Festival?”

In all the years I had sat in ‘first meetings’ at new agencies, no one had ever asked us that question.

I mumbled something like –“for the love of film," or “we show films that often do not get commercial releases so they wouldn’t be seen otherwise” or “it keeps me out of trouble.”

But the question stayed with me for a few days. 

Finally, I thought more deeply about my answer and e-mailed Flannery. This is what I told him:

"TJFF is a window to and a mirror of the Jewish experience around the world."

The Jewish world goes beyond Bathurst Street and it's important that the Toronto community see that. Being Jewish in Toronto is different than it is in Uruguay or Poland or in any one of the 18 countries that are represented in this year's Festival.

It is important to share our history as well as our present-day existence.

So for the Jewish community, it is an opportunity to see what being Jewish meant yesterday as well as what it means today in the wider world.

For non-Jews, it's important to show our many faces. For some people, the image of the Jew is a male wearing a black hat, who has side curls and a big nose. We challenge that image and demand to not just be seen as a stereotype.

It is important to be recognized as individuals who happen to belong to a particular culture; it could only be a good thing to share our experiences with others in a city as culturally diverse as Toronto.

I asked Flannery why he had asked his initial question.

His reply –“Somebody once asked me that question, and now every once in a while I'll meet people who seem really passionate and committed to what they do for a job, and I'm curious to know what drives them.”

This passion and commitment is shared by all the TJFF programmers, as we discuss the over 500 films that we preview and consider for the Festival.

Often, there are animated, yet respectful arguments about the merits of particular films, but one thing we all agree on is that we are still learning about the Jewish experience around the world.

So, along with all of the above, I need to say that after all these years, on Opening Night, when the lights go down, it is still Magic! And it DOES keep us all out of trouble!


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