Denver Jewish Film Festival Director Roberta Bloom on what makes a good fest flick

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One of the key goals of the Denver Jewish Film Festival is to get people outside of the Jewish faith engaged. "For us, getting the word out to the Jewish community is easy; getting the word out to the larger community is more challenging," says Roberta Bloom, director of the festival that kicks off this Wednesday, February 6, at the Elaine Wolf Theatre, with 26 films with an array of themes and styles. In advance of the showings, we talked with Bloom about the selection process and what makes a movie right for the Jewish Film Festival Film.

See also: - Hava Nagila (the movie) and more must-see films of the 17th Denver Jewish Film Festival - West Side Stories shines a light on Denver's colorful Jewish history - Roberta Bloom's top picks for the 2011 Denver Jewish Film Festival - Night & Day: Girls Gone Jewish

Westword: The films shown at the Denver Jewish Film Festival come from all areas -- documentaries, romantic comedies, dramas, everything. What is the criteria or selection process like?

Roberta Bloom: We run a film-selection process and we have about ten people who sit on the committee, of which I am one. I facilitate the process. We also have a few additional people who help with the prescreening of films, before they get to the selection committee. We are looking at contemporary Jewish film; in our case, our committee seems really interested in films about Jewish themes, more than, say, a film by a Jewish filmmaker. So they want it to have some Jewish content, but it could be dealing with Jewish history, Jewish identity, Jewish culture.

This year, we happen to have a lot of films that deal with contributions by different Jewish individuals in various forms of the arts -- whether it's theater, music, art, film, photography, literature or television. As an artist myself, I love seeing those kinds of films. I think this year it makes for a festival that feels more upbeat and joyous -- like a real celebration of Jewish culture and identity.

The festival is now in its seventeenth year, and you're opening a day earlier than usual?

We added an extra day to the festival by opening Wednesday instead of Thursday, which has been our traditional opening. That enabled us to add two screenings. Because of some scheduling anomalies that happened last year -- we ran over the weekend of the Academy Awards, so we didn't schedule movies during that time. We also had another film that filled up two slots. So this year we have five more screenings than we had last year. That's a lot. (Laughs.)

The recently renovated Elaine Wolf Theater looks beautiful. This is the first year the festival will be held there, correct?

Yes. For the past two years, we were "on the road" during the construction process. Last year, we were at the Denver FilmCenter Colfax (Now the Sie FilmCenter) and the year before, we were at the Cherry Creek mall theater. We are very happy to be home, in our newly renovated theater with increased capacity and lots of new amenities. We have a brand-new screen, new sound system, new lighting and new carpet. We are so happy to be here. I think the joyous feel of this festival is consistent with the whole idea of homecoming.

A very important point of the festival is that a good portion of our audience is not Jewish people; all kinds of people come to our film festival. So it is really important for us to get the world out. For us, getting the word out to the Jewish community is easy; getting the word out to the larger community is more challenging. We want to let the rest of the world know that it's happening, that it's fun, and everyone is welcome.

The 17th Denver Jewish Film Festival begins at 5:30 p.m. this Wednesday, February 6, at the Elaine Wolf Theatre, and is put on by the Mizel Arts and Culture Center at the Jewish Community Center. For more information on the films or to purchase tickets, visit the festival's website.

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