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Film Festival Opening Nights - Do's and Dont's

July 27, 2010

thumb_4938_saviorsinthenight_00.jpgI was at the Jewish Film Festival's opening night over the weekend. The event prompted me to think about a few ways to make the event a night to remember versus one that is instantly forgettable. Here are my thoughts:

1. Start with a film that possesses a strong storyline and characters. It should ensnare the mind and the heart in equal part. Or if it can only do one of these things, the heart should come first. Sounds obvious, I know. But a heady film or something too experimental won't jibe with the opening night crowd, which most likely has a large quotient of party people, staff from various embassies and corporate sponsors. The JFF hit exactly the right note with Ludi Boeken's Saviors in the Night, a gripping but thankfully not cliche-ridden Holocaust story set in Germany (screenshot from movie pictured above).

2. Keep opening remarks short, or better still, obliterate them completely. The JFF's speeches went on for way too long on Saturday evening -- around half an hour at least, it seemed. No one around me seemed to be listening. The festival's organizer's should take note.

3. If you're going to have a panel discussion after the opening night movie (and I question whether this is a good idea, especially if the audience has also had to sit through verbose opening speeches) make sure you have the A-Team of panel members. The JFF pulled out all the stops with a diverse group including the 90-something year old woman on whose life story Saviors in the Night is based.

4. Throw a really good after-party. The JFF again struck gold with a bash at the Swedish American Hall which featured really tasty Jewish cuisine-ish inspired food (I loved the egg salad on rye, the whitefish ceviche and the bread pudding) and peppy gypsy-ish music by the local old-school jazz outfit Gaucho. People danced and ate and drank and talked well into the night. The atmosphere was surprisingly hip for a film festival and there was a great buzz in the building.

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