Judy Ironside is the Founder and Executive Director of UK Jewish Film, which explores Jewish and interfaith cinema with an annual two-week festival in London, as well as special events and screenings throughout the year. Rapidly increasing in scale and popularity, the 16th UK Jewish Film Festival will also be screening simultaneously in Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester this year, with films on show including Cate Shortland’s acclaimed Second World War drama Lore (2012), Zaytoun (2012) and Sophie Lellouche’s Paris Manhattan (2012). CineVue caught up with Judy Ironside, Founder and Executive Director of UK Jewish Film, to find out a bit more about the organisation.
Sonia Zadurian: Can you describe the background of the UK Jewish Film Festival?
Judy Ironside: I started the festival as the Brighton Jewish Film Festival in 1997. I had very little experience in film at the time, apart from the fact that I love film. The festival started to move to become UK based and gravitated towards London in 2004. It was really about audiences and getting the festival out to the widest and most diverse audiences. Not only to move to London, but also get films out to other cities across the UK.
We’re not a festival that’s only for Jews, just as a festival for Bollywood films isn’t just for people from India. It was about finding the most diverse audience and showing the best of international films that had some Jewish theme. We receive close to 400 films every single year with some Jewish theme and we’re in our 16th year. That never fails to amaze me. There is obviously an interest in Jewish life, history and culture worldwide.
SZ: Do you ever have difficulty deciding whether or not a film should be included?
JI: Yes we have a programming group and I’m always involved in final decisions about films. There’s often a lot of discussion about relevance to the festival. It’s important that we’re always looking at extending our boundaries. For example, when looking at holocaust education, we can’t possibly only look at the Jewish holocaust. We have to be looking at the various incidents of genocide that have happened since the Nazi era. We constantly have to be looking outside of the box.
SZ: The Pears Foundation Short Film Fund is a fantastic opportunity for young filmmakers. Can you tell us a bit about the fund?
JI: It’s very important that we encourage new filmmaking in the UK. The Pears Foundation Short Film Fund at UK Jewish Film gives away two lots of £10,000 to new young writers. At the moment, the fund is open and it closes at the end of the year. We’re looking for scripts with some sort of theme related to Jewish or interfaith experience or holocaust/genocide. There are two winners and they get £10,000 each. Some people do choose to try and find additional funding for their 10 minute short film which is then premiered at the UK Jewish Film festival the following year.
The films are often picked up by other festivals around the world and some of them have had huge success. We have about 60-70 scripts sent to us each year. Even scripts that haven’t been chosen seem to go on to be made. We also hold an Emerging Filmmakers day during the festival each year. This year we’re at the London Film Museum in Covent Garden for a day of workshops for young filmmakers. People can either sign up to the whole event or else come to separate events. It’s a great chance to attend some really good workshops and to meet other young filmmakers. It’s a thoroughly good day and takes place this year on Sunday 11th November.
SZ: Finally, how do you see the festival evolving in the next few years?
JI: I don’t think we’ve ever stood still, so I see us developing as we have over the last 16 years. We’re constantly trying to look at the trends and look at where we can most encourage new talent. I very much hope and trust that that’s going to continue.
Tickets for the 2012 UK Jewish Film Festival are on sale now. For programme and booking details, visit ukjewishfilm.org.