What the Virtual Boulder Jewish Film Festival Will Look Like

Dear Friends,

So much has happened since we were so rudely interrupted mid-festival last March! We are all a little worse for wear, but I hope this letter finds you and yours well – and looking forward to the 9th Annual Boulder Jewish Film Festival as much as I am.

The 2021 festival will be a virtual affair, and I wanted to let you know what that will look like. Luckily for us, dozens of festivals have pivoted to virtual since March, and we have had the benefit of their experience to draw on as we plan an exciting and user-friendly program for you. While we will miss gathering together at the Dairy to share a social cinematic experience, our online event offers many distinct advantages.

The big difference this year is the comfort and convenience of watching films on your home screen at your leisure, with full technical support. Opportunities for engagement abound, with talkbacks as usual for every film but with more national guest speakers than usual.

The biggest difference is the mechanics of a virtual film festival, which I will explain here. The festival opens on Wednesday, March 11th with two shorts programs that will be presented “live,” in real time. We will watch the shorts together and engage in conversation between them.  I am thrilled that Judith Dack is returning to curate our two shorts programs and to facilitate the conversation after each film. In essence, we will be watching these films together, also duplicating the live experience from the comfort of your home.

Also starting on March 11th, audiences can begin watching the 16 titles selected for our audience. You may watch the films in any order you choose. However, if you want to participate in the talkbacks – one of the highlights of our festival – you will follow our schedule just like you would at an in-person event.

For the first time we are offering an all-access pass for $180 per household. Individual tickets are $15 per household and include access to the talkback. Once you start watching a film you have a 48-hour window to finish it, and at the end of the 48-hour window there will be a talk back. If you prefer to follow your own schedule, you may opt to listen to the recorded talkbacks at any time, or even participate before you watch the film.

Taking advantage of the virtual nature of the festival, we are offering an exclusive retrospective program, a tribute to Holocaust educator and filmmaker Pierre Sauvage. (Much more about this to come.) We will present four of his documentaries as well as a live “work-in-progress” program featuring clips and conversation from his latest project, a documentary about Varian Fry. We also have a special bonus program focused on Pierre’s cousin Samuel Pisar, step-father to incoming Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. In essence, Pierre will serve as artist/scholar in residence for the entire festival, something that would not be feasible in person. This mini-festival will be offered nationally, since the content is unique to our festival, and will include other notable national guests invited by Pierre to contribute.

Pierre Sauvage appears in an exclusive retrospective tribute

We have contracted to stream our festival with a company called Eventive, which has quickly emerged as the platform of choice for festivals around the country. On our festival’s Eventive website, you can view trailers, read descriptions, buy tickets, access customer support, and vote for your favorite film. Ease of customer experience is our top priority, and we are encouraged by the positive audience experience Eventive offers.

Prior to the festival, we are also offering a new program to help guide you as you buy tickets. I will discuss the selections, help explain the process, and answer questions at this free sneak preview, which will be held on Zoom on February 22nd at 5 pm. This year, here is no need to buy tickets early since there’s no worry about a film selling out. In addition, each screening will be preceded by a short, pre-recorded introduction, exactly as it is presented when you are at the Dairy.

HELD OVER: Dani Menkin’s “Picture of His Life”

We close the 2021 festival with an hour-long conversation with Pierre Sauvage, who will talk about his groundbreaking “Weapons of the Spirit,” as well as his other work. I am particularly excited about this in-depth program, along with the hour-long discussion with Dani Menken of two films held over from last year, both of which will be screened this year.

More guests, more in-depth conversation, and a wider national reach all are benefits of this year’s format. I am looking forward to share with you a tantalizing array of new feature films, documentaries, and shorts from around the world. As always, each film offers ample opportunity for substantive reflection, and I look forward to hearing your response to these stimulating explorations of the Jewish experience.

My next missive will go into detail on our films, but I wanted to start by offering you a better understanding of what to expect when we come together as a community to learn, laugh, and exchange ideas.

Wishing you all a wonderful 2021!

Fondly, Kathryn

About Kathryn Bernheimer

Kathryn has spent her professional life writing about, teaching, and presenting the arts. Founding Director of the Boulder Jewish Film Festival, Kathryn was Director of Menorah and ACE at the Boulder JCC from 2003 through August, 2019. The former film and theater critic for the Boulder Daily Camera, Kathryn is the author of "The Fifty Greatest Jewish Movies" and "The Fifty Funniest Films of All Time." kathryn.bernheimer@gmail.com

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