I want to thank everyone who attended the 4th annual Boulder Jewish Film Festival, which came to an intense conclusion Monday with three sold-out, back-to-back screenings of Oscar-winner “Son of Saul.” Thanks to Professor Paul Shankman for joining me for all three probing discussions and sharing his depth of knowledge of the Holocaust. Our guest speakers add so much to the festival, and our signature policy of making time for high level conversation after every film distinguishes us from most festivals.
I have one thing to say to all of you who came to the festival: I miss you. Presenting these films, bringing in speakers, hosting parties around our selections, working with our sponsors, creating the trailer and the printed program, and collaborating with so many great people and organizations is really, at the end of a long 10 days, a complete pleasure. I have the fortune of an exceptionally cinema savvy audience, and an engaged community that loves coming out to see each other at fun cultural arts events.
I describe the satisfaction like this. Have you ever read a book, a really good book, and were eager to share it with a friend? Then, after you recommended it, you had a great conversation with said friend?
That’s what the festival is like for me. I spend the year watching more than 100 movies, some that are offered to me by distributors, others that I track down after reading about them in the Jewish press or seeing them on the schedule of other film festivals.
Once I have picked the 18-20 most worthy – chosen for quality, variety and importance – I try to predict how many people will show up for each one, and schedule them accordingly.
This year I made a few poor guesses. Two of what I consider the festival’s best films – not including Son of Saul, which is in its own category – did not draw as large an audience as I anticipated. If you saw Rock in the Red Zone in the Gordon Gamm Theater and the Search for Israeli Cuisine in the Boe, both of which were followed by Skype interviews with the filmmakers, consider yourself fortunate.
But in all, this was a banner year for the festival. We are still finalizing our accounting, but are anticipating a 20% increase in ticket sales. We had more repeats screenings and more sell-outs than last year.
Our Opening Night, with Ganit Ilouz in person for her popular debut “Dove’s Cry,” was warmly embraced by the full house. Our Centerpiece “Deli Man” screening and kosher deli meal, was a plain old good time. Our Closing Night screening of “Dough” also got a “rise” out of the sold-out crowd, and Sheldon Sands & Friends had people dancing in the partially finished Dairy Lobby. The best-in-Boulder Breadworks’ brownies, especially the “double chai,” added a savory – and satirical – touch.
The early bird 10-pack proved popular, but difficult to manage on the website. I apologize for any frustration and we have a solution that will make it much easier next year. Many of you mentioned that the assigned seating was an improvement, and we are glad to hear it. We thank the Boe for accommodating us on this more complicated ticketing process – it will not be the case in Boe screenings outside the festival.
The Dairy Arts Center continues to be a generous host and true partner, and we look forward to their greatly enhanced capabilities just as the new Boulder JCC is about to open its doors. I have been following and writing about the Boulder arts scene for forty years, and I believe that the arts are coming into an age of real maturity with these two projects and a number of new venues and arts initiatives as well. I never view new organizations as competition, but rather as potential partners. One goal of the festival is to provide a platform for other organizations by aligning them with a particular film that speaks to their values. The Jewish National Fund, for example, sponsored Rock in the Red Zone, which takes place in Sderot, where JNF donated a huge indoor playground for children. Having JNF’s Boaz Meir at the screening to discuss life on the ground in Sderot, was another highlight of the evening, and the festival.
Sponsors are key to any film festival’s success, and again we have been fortunate to have the support of long-time cultural arts funder Sacha Millstone of Millstone Evans Group of Raymond James as a gold sponsor from the first year, and Grace and Gordon Gamm as gold sponsors again this year. The St. Julien came on as our third gold sponsor this year, and we are actively seeking sponsors at every level.
Jerry Sloat of Sloat and Nicholson returned as a silver sponsor, and we placed a lovely picture of Gail and Jerry from last years’ Reflections, at which they were honored, in our pre-show thank you reel. Seeing them always made me smile, and I hope seeing familiar faces also reminds you that our community is full of special people and special occasions. The Boulder Jewish News also came on for the first time as Copper Sponsors of “Dough.”
Response to our post-festival survey has been extremely favorable. Our overall quality rating is 9.4. The overall rating of the films was 8.82; 94% of the films were rated at 8.0 or higher. Five films scored over 9.0: To Life, The Search for Israeli Cuisine, Apples from the Desert, Son of Saul, and Rosenwald. Films just under 9.0: Dove’s Cry, Dough, Deli Man.
Hospitality was highly rated at 9.1. Talkbacks were rated 8.34. Guest speakers were rated 8.7. Half of those attending saw four or more films. Only 5% – you know who you are! – saw 11-14 of our 19 titles.
We appreciate the overwhelmingly positive comments:
“Terrific festival! How can you top this one?”
“We feel so thrilled to be part of such a vibrant Jewish community that has such a wonderful, engaging Jewish Film Festival.”
“I felt very welcomed and comfortable, and I am not even Jewish.”
“It was such a full experience with visual arts, culinary arts, dancing, lectures and talkbacks.”
“I enjoyed feeling the community support at this festival.”
“I wish I could have gone to every film.”
I encourage everyone to take this survey if you have not already, as this information is useful as we continue to promote and market the festival.
I am always available for comments, suggestions and, of course, volunteers and sponsors.