Business Profile: Wilmington Jewish Film Festival

by Apr 4, 2023Across the Cape Fear, Events, North Brunswick

The 9th Annual Wilmington Jewish Film Festival will take place April 23 through May 3rd.

The Wilmington Jewish Film Festival made its Port City debut in 2013, beginning with a single film. Over the years it has grown exponentially, becoming an integral part of Wilmington’s Jewish community and the community at large.

“The Wilmington Jewish Film Festival has had such tremendous growth due in large part to the leadership of Festival Chair Debbie Smith,” says Pam Sender, Wilmington Jewish Film Festival’s (WJFF) communications director. “Debbie has chaired the festival since 2017, after having co-chaired it in 2016.”

Now heading into its ninth season, WJFF receives entries from around the world, and the selection process for each festival begins a year in advance.

Mimi Kessler and Barry Salwen of the WJFF Executive Committee co-chair the Film Selection Committee. They screen 40 to 50 films each year before sending their recommendations to the film selection committee for review.

“We typically choose six to seven feature films and one to three shorts for our annual festival in the spring and two to three feature films for our Summer Series,” Sender says. “Occasionally, we can bring a pop-up film to our community between festivals.”

9th Annual Wilmington Jewish Film Festival

The committee strives to select films with Jewish content or spirit that span all genres, from documentary to comedy. The main goal is to showcase likable, relatable, educational films and to promote awareness and inclusivity.

Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Wilmington hosts the festival each year.

“After each screening, we host a dinner or dessert reception,” Sender says. “It allows us to gather as a community, discuss the film and share great food. Sharon Rosner chairs all our receptions.”

In 2017 WJFF expanded its outreach to local high school students. That year, WJFF bused 600 local high school students to Thalian Hall, where they watched a screening of Fanny’s Journey, a film based on the true story of Holocaust survivor Fanny Ben-Ami. At the end of each screening, students discuss the film with an expert or listen to a speaker. In the fall of 2022, WJFF brought Fanny’s Journey to 1,000 local students at the Wilson Center.

WJFF offers many ways to support its mission, including volunteering, becoming a Friend of the Festival, or taking out an ad in the program book that accompanies the annual festival.

Wilmington Jewish Film Festival NC 2023

“Each tax-deductible donation helps ensure that the Wilmington Jewish Film Festival will continue to be a source of inspiration, education and elation for our community and region,” Sender says.

Individuals, couples or families may consider becoming a Friend of the Festival. There are different levels of sponsorship, many of which come with festival tickets.

In addition to the Spring Festival, WJFF hosts a Summer Series Film Festival each August at The Pointe Movie Theatre. Over three consecutive weeks, they screen three different film selections.

This year’s Spring Festival will be on April 23, 24, 26 and 30 and May 1 and 3.

Festival goers can purchase tickets per film or buy a Festival Pass, which grants access to all viewings. Film selections will be posted on WJFF’s website one month before the festival.

Visit Thalian Hall’s website, thalianhall.org to purchase tickets. And to learn more about the upcoming film festival or ways to support WJFF, visit wilmingtonjff.org or contact Pam Sender at media@wilmingtonjff.org.