The people of the screen

A new Web initiative based in San Francisco will serve as a database for Jewish film worldwide.

Gertrude Berg 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Gertrude Berg 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF) is set to launch the largest and most comprehensive online resource for Jewish film in the world on June 23rd. Coined the "IMDB of Jewish film," the New Media Initiative - backed by Steven Spielberg and the Charles H. Revson Foundation - will serve film lovers and filmmakers alike. Peter L. Stein, executive director of the SFJFF, is optimistic that the initiative will catch on. "Of course it's a little early to know how a new resource will be adopted, accepted and migrate out into the world, just as it was impossible to predict back in 1980, when we launched the first-ever Jewish film festival here in San Francisco, that it would spark a whole movement of such festivals around the world (there are more than 110 now)." Stein hopes the initiative will effectively create an online space that captures the richness, depth, diversity, and spirit of discovery that defines what he refers to as "the best of Jewish filmmaking," and to bring those qualities to audiences that have not had access to them before. "That can only help reinforce the ongoing contribution of independent Jewish cinema to a global cultural conversation," Stein says. "Jewish film - and video and digital media - are our generation's most potent form of cultural transmission: We tell our stories, debate our history, imagine and re-imagine ourselves through our films, documentaries, even our YouTube clips. We've become as much the People of the Screen as of the Book," he says. Stein sees the initiative, part of a greater current trend of moving media to the Internet, as a way to develop "trusted sources and trusted communities who help define, debate and extend the value of those stories - otherwise it's all just undifferentiated noise in a vast digital desert." The Jewish film festival has been running annually in San Francisco for 28 years. Its affiliated Web-based service will be launched at and will offer free and easy access to streaming media, film titles, historical briefings, recommendations, social opportunities for networking, materials for educators and students and a general showcase of new Jewish films.