Quite a few years ago, I accompanied our then director of development to a meeting with a potential supporter involved in the film business. After I told him about the mandate of the Festival, and our hopes for its future growth, he asked “Why can’t you be happy with having a small community Festival?”
Our audience was not happy with being a small community Festival: they were asking for more and we wanted to give it to them.
All the while, as we sat at programming meetings to select the next Festival’s films, the shelves around us were bursting with films from past years, made by independent filmmakers who maxed out their credit cards and their families’ and friends’ pocket money, to put their dreams on film.
For the most part, these films made the rounds of film festivals for a couple of years and then were relegated to attracting dust particles on shelves.
A few of them were picked up by distributors and made available for sale on DVD, but most were not. (This was before many Jewish-content films played regularly at multiplexes.)
With the growth of films streaming online, an idea was born. Why not put these abandoned treasures on our website for the public to watch whenever they wanted, from wherever they lived in Canada?
So, last year, as a gift to our audience, we created a platform with 25 films, in celebration of our 25th Festival.
We contacted filmmakers and distributors and asked permission to use their films.
Many of them were delighted to give their films new lives and generously offered their work freely, others asked for a modest fee.
We were in business! What was launched as TJFF Online has now become J-FLIX.com, and with new films added every week, we have had over 10,000 visits—and counting—to the streaming platform.
J-Flix brings Jewish content films to anyone (and everyone) in Canada.
Finally, an opportunity to dust off long lost films that played at our Festivals over the years.
From the small Festival in 1993 that ran 5 days with 20 films, we are now an 11-day happening in 6 venues across the city.
We are happy with being a “small community festival” as long as our small community includes all of Canada.