Tuesday, May 10, 2005

05.09.05: Toronto Jewish Film Festival Reportback

E-mail from Seth:
“Remember to eat maple syrup, play hockey, and say something nice to someone. Those things are all Canadian.”

Airplane-breath me is just returning to San Francisco from Jericho’s Echo’s second international premeiere and I am looking forward to being home for a while. Don’t get me wrong--if every festival experience is as wonderful as the last two, I could definitely live with jetsetting for a while!

To be honest, I was a bit concerned about the Toronto screening (What me, worry?). The San Francisco and Tel Aviv screenings absolutely spoiled me with their sold out crowds and great enthusiasm. Those were home turf, and this was my first away-game, so to speak. Plus, it was a midnight screening in a town where I didn’t really know anyone, and my mom and dad were driving up from Syracuse to check it out. Oy vey.

Well, my fears were pretty much blown away the minute I arrived at the hotel to discover that my screening had been written up in three of the main local papers (including a 5-freaking-star review in the Eye Weekly! Wow!). Shortly thereafter, the problem of not really knowing anyone was solved, too. I was on the same flight and next-door neighbors at the HoJo with the lovely Bay Area producer Marian Sofaer (whose short film. Poumy. I loved!) and so we went as dates to the Shabbat dinner given in honor of the filmmakers on the evening of our arrival.

Before even entering the party, we ran into a confused-yet-stylish looking young man who we assisted in finding the event. This turned out to be fellow filmmaker Jeffrey P, Nesker, who was to become my New Best Friend for the weekend. As soon as we entered the dinner. I felt like part of the mishpacha. I give so much credit to the fine staff and board members of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival for making all of its out-of-town guests feel so warmly and immediately welcome. We were greeted by two of the people who I did already know a bit: my swanky Canadain distributor Ryan Bruce Levey and the admirable Israeli-cum-Canadian producer Amit Breuer.

The dinner was an absolute highlight of the weekend. It was held in the beautiful home of the festival director Helen Zukerman. The food was delish, complete with Shabbat candlelighting and chalah-eating. It was nice to be reminded that is was indeed a Jewish film festival, and that despite differences in ages and origins, I had something important in common with everyone in that room. The evening was crowded, noisy, funny, food-filled, and in all these ways and more, very Jewish.

One of the funny and Jewishy things about TJFF is that they are known as one of the only festivals who appeases its antsy crowds by handing out noshs to the ticket-holders waiting in line. My parents and I wtinessed this at the opening night film The Syrian Bride as volunteers careened down the aisles with falafel balls on toothpicks and other snacks. Now, that is my kind of festival.

The midnight screening on opening night was a little ditty I like to call Jericho’s Echo: Punk Rock in the Holy Land. My parents were kvelling all over the place! After all my worrying about it, I was thrilled to have them there and I think they were thrilled to be there. We got a pretty good crowd, considering the late hour, and the response was positive. It was truly a good sign when almost the entire audience stayed for the Q & A, even though it was around 2 AM! I told them, and I meant it, “You are hardcore!”

The rest of the weekend consisted of sunshine, a lovely Mother's Day brunch, a shoe museum (yes, a museum of shoes, sweet!), a boozy night out with the young filmmakers, and of course....MOVIES!

Merci beaucoup to all of my new friends in Toronto…especially the other young filmmakers I met who are certainly destined for greatness: Jeffrey Nesker (A Snowbird’s Paradise?), Igal Hecht (Not in My Name) and Ramin Farahani(Jews of Iran) ; along with the great dudes who helped promote my screening: Joshua from JewishMayhem.com (check out my article there on Why Being Jewish is Punk Rock!) and Aubin from Punknews.org.

Now that I am giving ‘props, I want to take a small detour and recognize two of my favorite bloggers, who also happen to be a couple of the coolest Jews around. Now, I only flirt with blogging, but these two are downright blog-ho’s (and I mean that in the nicest way possible), writing often about themselves and their amazing projects. So withour further ado…let me introduce you to MOBIUS, who writes about his hip-hop adventures in Israel on the ORTHODOX ANARCHIST (and also runs the super group blog JEWSCHOOL), and ISA who documents her incredible vegan cooking show/cookbook writing shenanigans over at the POST PUNK KITCHEN. Rock on with yer bits and bytes!