BJFF Announces New Artistic Director

By Shelley A. Sackett

Published May 29, 2015, issue of May 28, 2015.
Ariana Cohen-Halberstam is the new Artistic Director of the Boston Jewish Film Festival.
Ariana Cohen-Halberstam is the new Artistic Director of the Boston Jewish Film Festival.

After a national search, the Boston Jewish Film Festival announced that Ariana Cohen-Halberstam would succeed Amy Geller as artistic director after Geller left to pursue filmmaking (see Journal, March 26). Cohen-Halberstam comes to the BJFF from the JCC Manhattan, where she was Associate Director of Film Programming.

At JCC Manhattan, Cohen-Halberstam, 31, managed and worked with festival teams to curate and program the year-round Cinematters, ReelAbilities: New York Film Festival, the Other Israel Film Festival and the Israel Film Center Festival.

She has been active in the New York film community for over a decade and has a background in film production and editing in a variety of documentary and short films and television.

At the BJFF, Cohen-Halberstam’s chief responsibilities will be to select films and programming for the annual BJFF festival and for other programs throughout the year.

“Ariana brings a fresh and vibrant energy to the Festival along with over ten years of experience in both Jewish and disability films,” said Jaymie Saks, executive director of BJFF. “She combines a broad perspective and a forward-looking lens as she sifts through current trends. We are excited to have her on board.”

Cohen-Halberstam echoed that excitement. “I am honored to become part of the story of one of the longest-running Jewish film festivals in the world,” she said, noting that she is especially looking forward to be stepping in at this point in the festival’s history.

“The fact that BJFF co-produces ReelAbilities:Boston [which showcases films about the lives of people with different disabilities from a variety of communities] was a major draw for me. It was incredible to see the community that formed around the Festival in NY and to see the increasing quality and variety of films on the topic of disability that have been made over the past few years. I am really looking forward to being a part of ReelAbilities here in Boston,” she said.

She was also drawn to BJFF’s “FreshFlix, the young adult programming, and anticipates expanding the festival’s presence in the Boston arts scene beyond the two weeks of the current festival.

As a filmgoer and a curator, Cohen-Halberstam looks for films that make her think and that inspire conversation. “I want the BJFF audiences to participate in post-screening conversations and to talk to the person sitting next to them about the film, and maybe for the film to be the topic of conversation at dinner the next day. I think a good film goes home with you,” she said.

As a new Boston resident, Cohen-Halberstam is most looking forward to getting to know her new home. “I’ve only been here a few weeks and I’m really taken by the strength and vibrancy of the film and Jewish communities and organizations here in Boston,” she said.

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