Joyce Axelrod, co-founder, San Diego Jewish Film Festival
Joel Fendelman, filmmaker, "David"
Related Story: San Diego Jewish Film Festival
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Coming up next, films, guest artists more films and lots of discussion panels. That's all on the agenda at the San Diego Jewish film Festival. We will hear about it as KPBS Midday Edition continues. This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Our season of film festivals continues in San Diego with the 22nd annual Jewish film Festival. 40 films will be screened between February 9 and 19th and joining me to talk about the event is Joyce Axelrod. She is co-founder of the San Diego Jewish film Festival. Joyce, welcome to the program.
JOYCE AXELROD: I thank you for having me.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now you as I say are the co-founders of the San Diego Jewish film Festival. When you started it did you think it would grow to become one of the largest in the country?
JOYCE AXELROD: I don't think we could foresee the future. I think what we were really concerned about were building audiences just for our first and second Festival. And as each year progressed we thought oh, maybe more people will come. So I don't think that we had any inkling that the festival would be this grand after 22 years.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So what has your role been for the 22 years?
JOYCE AXELROD: I was curating festival for about 14 years. I was viewing maybe 40, 50 films a year. Which I thought was a lot. And now our curating team views about 300 films. And that is quite a job for them. They are very dedicated so, during those first few years there were not many films with Jewish themes that we could consider for the festival and now it's, it's a very lofty job. So I would say that the number of films that are available is probably the biggest advancement.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Another something also called the Joyce Forum at the Festival and I would imagine that it is your forum. What do you do at the Joyce forum?
JOYCE AXELROD: I've always been interested in promoting emerging filmmakers. So, years ago we used to send submission forms to the University film departments all around the country asking people to submit their films to us and we didn't get a lot, then we decided that we were going to honor not only young filmmakers, but middle-age filmmakers and they didn't have to be young.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So it is a showcase for emerging the makers?
JOYCE AXELROD: Yes and last year we showed Over 90 and Loving It and it's also a film that PBS featured.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Right, I've seen it and it was great.
JOYCE AXELROD: The film maker is local and she's probably in her 50s.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So people just getting started in film making not necessarily their age. Now overall Joyce how would you say how important is discussion of films at the San Diego Jewish film Festival? It seems to me that that is an integral part of this particular film Festival.
JOYCE AXELROD: I think it is. I think that people who stay after the films and can hear a filmmaker talk about his work I think you walk away with a different impression of the film when you see how much of their lives they've put into the producing of the film. I love festivals for that reason.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Are there any films that you would especially like to highlight?
JOYCE AXELROD: Well I would like to highlight the shorts this year, which is on February 13 at 230. We viewed about 100 short films I had a committee of five people. And we called account to about seven or eight just superb short films and we're offering, this is our gift to the community. It is a Freeman a.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: When is that?
JOYCE AXELROD: It's 2:30 February 13 it is a Monday. And I am just so pleased because three of our filmmakers will be in, including 11-year-old (inaudible) Chen. Who is the filmmaker for Ingrid Pitt. He's received a lot of good press for a. He's really an 11-year-old animator. He is delightful.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me also, we have on the line with us now filmmaker Joel settlement. His film David is being shown at the San Diego Jewish film Festival. We also have a clip from the trailer. The film poses the question The son of a prominent imam and an Orthodox Jewish boy become friends in Brooklyn's diverse ethnic community and here is a clip from the film's trailer
>> I want to study the Koran with those boys?
>> They are not studying the Koran.
>> Look, they left the book.
>> There was a Jewish boy who left his book so I got it and I returned it to him.
>> What is your name
>> When should take a seat over there with everybody.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That is a clip from a trailer for the film David which will be featured at the San Diego Jewish film Festival individual settlement, the director is on the line right now Joel welcome to the program.
JOEL FENDELMAN: Thank you, thank you. Hi, Joyce, Hi Maureen, it is a pleasure to be here.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What drew you to telling the story now why did she want to tell it.
JOEL FENDELMAN: As a filmmaker as an artist for me it's always about looking at issues that are within myself things that I've thought or things that I'm sick of dealing with soy big winner of the last five or six years I'm sure many people that age go through is identity and what does it mean to be who I am, or any Jewish sense what does it mean to be Jewish and really looking at that and looking at many ways how that brings us together in so many beautiful ways but also separates us and living in New York City for the last eight years post-9/11 what does it mean to somebody's identity being Arab Muslim today what is that like.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now you have Iranian-American standup comic (inaudible) one of the boys father. Why did you choose to cast a standup comedian in this role?
JOEL FENDELMAN: It's funny because when I go to some of the screenings that have Q&A I say yeah many people Thomas, some people don't you know (inaudible), he's a community with the active, comedian and they are blown away and it's definitely a laughing point because he's not a comedian, he doesn't do comedy in the film. It's a very dramatic role and he does very well at it.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What is the importance of having your film David shown at the film festival?
JOEL FENDELMAN: I think the realm really pushes is want to start a conversation with people and showing at the San Diego Jewish film Festival and we've shown it at a number of others it is amazing the response we get. I love being there because the audience, they are engaged in sometimes we as Muslims, we have just we have a variety of people that will come to the screenings and everyone has their own questions but it brings them together in the same space asking them and I think that's important.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Joyce, do you find your committee booking more films from the Middle East, from outside Israel?
JOYCE AXELROD: Oh, absolutely. We have films from every place in the world. And I think it really goes to the heart of how films touch everyone and conflict, interacting with others. We are pleased to be able to show films that are from outside of the US.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, in your movie, David, Joe I am wondering is you say that Buster Bunny doesn't have a comedy role, but is there humor in the movie?
JOEL FENDELMAN: There is there's definitely some spots of humor. Now that I've seen and probably over 100 times I know them all by heart. And I think that's what people will think whether it's laughter or tears whatever it is when you break it all down we all have that. We all experience those feelings. And at the end of the day that brings us for all humans, and there's not really much that separates us and that's really one of the things we really try to look at in this film especially between cultures as being Arab Muslim or Jewish is there a singularity that both the cultures possess.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Listening to both of you Joyce and Joel, it sounds as if you have this mission that there is a real educational component to this festival. Joyce would you like to comment on that?
JOYCE AXELROD: Yes. I think if you come to a Jewish film Festival you can learn about Jewish communities in Ethiopia, in Turkey, you can learn about people like Josh Heifetz, Henry Kissinger. There are so many documentaries and feature films that are based in places all around the world. So it is quite an education.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me ask both of you to comment on this. In comments that we've got on the KPBS website you know we have featured a number of different film festivals on here. To promote, and to tell people that these things are coming up. We had some discussion about whether we need festivals that focus on a particular group or culture. And let me start with you, Joyce. Why do you feel we do need a Jewish film Festival?
JOYCE AXELROD: Well, other than showing that a Festival, even though it is called a Jewish festival speaks to everyone, I think it also offers the Jewish community a way to learn more about their heritage. I know that just from watching films all these years I'm always amazed that I learn more, and is a cinematic classroom for me. So I think it's a terrific way to be more educational into give yourself that opportunity.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Joel, why do you think that perhaps the idea of having festivals that promote a particular group or culture are a good thing?
JOEL FENDELMAN: Well I mean I would tack on to what Joyce said as far as, making this film I learned a whole ton about being Jewish, about what does it mean and learning my own roots. Ideally someone could come to a festival like this and they will see a film that comes from a certain culture or a certain history and they will learn more about that culture or the people of that culture and it's like and David people come see the film, they could be Jewish or not Jewish, but they will learn what is it like to be an Orthodox Jew or a conservative Muslim and ideally learn to see themselves, they're really not that different.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You know in keeping with the idea that this Jewish film Festival has jumped so much in the past 22 years if someone has never been to your Festival, Joyce, what is a good way to approach going. Should a novice attendee, how should someone go about picking the films that they want to see?
JOYCE AXELROD: Okay I would suggest first of all visit our website. Look at our brochure. Ask a friend. Or, take a chance. Just come.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I think that's good advice. You know, in closing, some festivals like the Italian film Festival and the Asian film Festival seem to be thriving in these tough times. Other festivals have had a bit of a struggle. How is the Jewish film Festival doing?
JOYCE AXELROD: That's a good question. We are very pleased with our attendance, but, Maureen, you know that a film festival survives from getting individual corporate donors that are, the people they really support us. And we can't rely on just people that bought a ticket or a seasons pass. So, we are very grateful to our community and there's always openings for business, for an individual to come in. We really value that.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There is just really one place to go to see the movies, right?
JOYCE AXELROD: No, there are many venues. There is our signature please, Clairmont, right in Clairmont. There is one in Carlsbad. San Marcos. Hazard. And we show a few films at the Jewish committee center. So if you look at our website you don't have to travel far to see a film in the film Festival.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And yeah, go to the website see where they are, see what the festival is and just, take a chance. I want to thank you both so much for speaking with me. First of all the San Diego Jewish film Festival runs February 9 through the 19th. I've been speaking with Joyce Axelrod who is co-founder of the festival and a jewel gentleman whose film David is being shown at the festival this year. Thank you both very much.
JOYCE AXELROD: Thank you
JOEL FENDELMAN: Thank you.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Remember to listen tonight, that is, tune in tonight for KPBS evening edition. It's on KPBS television at 6:30. And join us again tomorrow for KBPS Midday Edition. You know that it starts at noon right here on KPBS FM. I am Maureen Cavanaugh and thank you for listening.