With its relatively edgy program and offbeat advertisements, the Toronto Jewish Film Festival tries to break out of the bubbala bubble. Helen Zukerman, the fest’s director, talks about recruiting younger, non-Jewish crowds.
What are main misconceptions involved with your festival?
The first is that if you’re not Jewish, you’re not going to find anything at the festival. And that’s really not so. We have biographies of Henry Kissinger and Philip Roth. But the reason they get into our festival is because they’re good films. Also, like everyone else, we’re looking at a younger audience. We program eclectic films because our programming staff are all 20-somethings and 30-somethings and some 40-somethings.
What surprises do you have for us this year?
This Is Sodom is a takeoff on the Old Testament story. It’s like a Monty Python film. God is wearing a suit and carrying an attaché case. And there’s OSS 177: Lost in Rio, starring Jean Dujardin, who just won an Oscar for The Artist. It’s a spoofy spy film, and the reason it’s in a Jewish film festival is that he’s chasing a Nazi with a gorgeous blonde Israeli Mossad agent. But the story is kooky crazy.
Why don’t more Jewish festivals do the kooky crazy?
A lot are run out of a Jewish community centre or a synagogue. We’re not. We tend to play much more controversial stuff, especially concerning the Middle East.
To be provocative?
We do it if it’s a good film. We do it if it will encourage dialogue. I told somebody once that if we’re not getting yelled at, we’re not doing our job. –B.W.
The Toronto Jewish Film Festival runs May 3 to 13, at six venues. (OSS 177: Lost in Rio and This is Sodom, May 5, 9:15 and 11:30 p.m., Underground Cinema, 186 Spadina). $8 to $20, with some free films and free student admission. tjff.com or 416-324-9121.