British film industry veteran Stephen Margolis will reinvigorate UK Jewish film

By Marcus Dysch, September 20, 2012
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My Best Holidays, a French film set in the heat wave of July 1976, will screen during this year’s film festival

My Best Holidays, a French film set in the heat wave of July 1976, will screen during this year’s film festival

Writing labs, commercial radio and web-based TV programmes are part of plans to reinvigorate UK Jewish Film.

The charity’s new chairman, British film industry veteran Stephen Margolis, has pledged to “jazz up” the organisation and expand from its annual festival into assisting budding film-makers.

The man who produced British successes such as Bend it Like Beckham and Leon the Pig Farmer said he would use his experience to help move UK Jewish Film into new areas.

Mr Margolis, 63, said: “We want to broaden the demographic and focus on emerging talent. There are opportunities to help the producers, directors and make-up artists of tomorrow. There’s a lot we can do to assist them.

“We want to help not just young talent, but frustrated writers of all ages.”

To give Anglo-Jewish writers the opportunity to develop their skills, leading British film-makers will offer training and educational sessions. There will also be a push to use the problems and tragedies Jews have faced throughout history as lessons to create awareness of current world issues and a “broad-based educational programme”.

The Manchester-born executive said the ambitious plans could be successful despite the dire economic situation. “New films are made and the money is out there to do it. UK Jewish Film is blessed by having some very supportive benefactors who help us with a fund for short films and to finance emerging talent.

“There are financial pressures on many charities. We need to find a commercial base to what we are doing and to help support our artistic aims.”

Mr Margolis will consider creating a lifetime achievement award as a focal point for work about leading Jewish arts figures, including musicians and other performers.

The charity is best-known for its annual event, Europe’s biggest Jewish film festival.

This year’s festival opens in November in London, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Glasgow, and Mr Margolis was keen to emphasise that it is “not just a London event”.

More than 50 feature films, documentaries, short films, and TV specials from around the world will be shown. Around 40 UK premières will be screened at the festival.

Mr Margolis said he had been invited to work with the charity by its executive director, Judy Ironside, before taking over as chairman when lawyer David Kustow stepped down. He said the role was “a chance to give something back” to the industry.

Last updated: 11:23pm, September 20 2012