Tucson International Jewish Film Festival

By Megan Wadding, Jan. 15, 2015.

Orange People (Anashim Ketumim).

The 24th Annual Tucson International Jewish Film Festival, presented by the Jewish Community Center (JCC), will run Jan. 15-24 and is expected to draw estimated 3,000 attendees.

The festival will screen 19 films, including two features selected by the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s LGBT Jewish Inclusion Project: The Outrageous Sophie Tucker and Cupcakes (see review, page 34).

Now one of the longest running festivals in the country, the Tucson International Jewish Film Festival prides itself on working to promote the preservation of Jewish culture and encouraging cultural diversity and the exploration of identity through various films, including documentaries, narratives, musicals, shorts and feature-lengths, over a 10-day period.

Lynn Davis, the festival’s director, said a volunteer committee meets weekly, beginning each February, to choose the films that will be included in the lineup.

“We source films from all over the world, we look at what other festivals have chosen, we have relationships with directors and distributors who alert us when there’s something new,” Davis said. “We spent a couple hours every week going through a lot of film.”

The Pleasures of Being/Out of Step: Notes on the Life of Nat Hentoff

Through the JCC’s partnership with the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s Inclusion Project, it has been a tradition of the festival to ensure that Jewish LGBTQ stories are included as part of the broad film set.

According to Davis, the festival sees at least two or three LGBTQ-themed films each year. In previous years, the festival has included films such as Any Day Now, Melting Away, Yossi, Let My People Go and Edie and Thea, among others.

“One of the goals of our festival is to present the rich, diverse tapestry of the Jewish experience and Jewish lifestyles around the world,” Davis said. “Jewish LGBTQ individuals are an integral part of our culture and their stories are an integral part of our festival. This has long been a tradition within the [festival].”

Although there is no official theme to the festival, Davis said that it still fascinates her how every single year, a theme seems to emerge organically.

Little White Lie

“This year I would say it is really about identity,” she said. “In some ways, it’s looking to come to terms with their Jewish identity, certainly, but all different things. You have people at different phases of their lives, … looking for meaning in different places. To me, [the films] really brought home all of the different components that play into making us who we are [and] determine what we choose for community.”

Davis said she is particularly excited to see how the audiences will react to each film in the lineup.

“Everyone on the committee is exciting about watching the films with a group,” Davis said. “There is an appreciable difference between watching a film in a room of your community as opposed to watching it as home in your pajamas. It incites conversation, and discussion and dialogue. The person sitting next to you may have a different reaction.”

The Last Mentsch (Der Letzte Mentsch)

The audience, who tends of skew a little older, is a good slice of the general population and definitely a mix of Jewish and non-Jewish people, which, David said, could be attributed to having three locations, allowing the festival to reach a broader demographic across the city.

“Since we get around town, we see a great cross section of the Tucson community,” she said. “We have this very diverse, very entertaining, very educational, really robust selection of films that people wouldn’t otherwise see in the market. We really believe there is something there for everyone.”

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