In 2019, Italian film scholar Margherita Ghetti joined the S.F.-based Jewish Film Institute — the entity that puts on the annual San Francisco Jewish Film Festival — as its programmer for younger audiences. One of her goals was to spark conversations about love and relationships.
Little did she know that a global pandemic would completely up the ante for young people, or anyone, looking to “meet” someone.
In her second JFI Next Wave screening, Ghetti has scheduled a 26-minute made-for-TV comedy that follows a newly out lesbian as she negotiates dating and work.
The pilot of “Lady Liberty” was scheduled long ago for Pride Month, but now the screening will take place on Zoom — as will a post-screening discussion likely to veer toward the challenges of love in the time of coronavirus.
Ghetti says dating and building relationships are “a deep concern” right now among young people in a world of social distancing.
“Everyone is talking about it,” says Ghetti, 35. “It’s a real thing.”
“Lady Liberty,” however, should offer some comic relief when it is presented on June 25.
Created and written as a TV pilot by N.Y.-based comic actor Julia Lindon, the script draws on Lindon’s experiences as a production assistant on “Saturday Night Live” and as a personal assistant to former “SNL” actor Jason Sudeikis (who has a role in the pilot).
Lindon also draws on some of her other experiences: co-hosting the podcast “Happy Campers,” her role on the short-lived Comedy Central series “Detroiters” and being part of the production team on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
In “Lady Liberty,” Lindon, a native of Rye, New York, who is in her late 20s, plays an aspiring comedian in the Big Apple seeking to forge her societal “labels” of nice Jewish girl, entertainment professional and queer woman into an authentic identity.
“‘Lady Liberty’ is very relatable,” Ghetti says. “It’s funny and light, but goes deeply into questions of what it means to navigate your identity, both sexual and cultural.”
While the formula isn’t exactly groundbreaking, Ghetti says, “What’s new and special to me is that this [episode] is very tender and heartfelt, in a way that passes through the screen to the viewer, showing the blossoming of this new period of her life. It captures a sense of urgency that I think is very relevant. It is also very well done cinematically; it is good television.”
The screening on Zoom originally was scheduled for June 4, but JFI postponed it in response to the nationwide upheaval over race relations and community policing. Now it falls two days short of Pride weekend on June 27-28.
“There will be no parade this year,” Ghetti says. “All the events are virtual.”
“Lady Liberty” premiered 13 months ago at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, but June 25 will mark its first online screening and is being billed as its “public premiere.”
Along with JFI, it is sponsored by a number of entities, including Frameline (presenter of the S.F. International LGBTQ Film Festival) and Sketchfest (an annual comedy festival). It’s also part of the online series “JFI Cinegogue Sessions,” all curated, themed presentations of Jewish films, shorts and other features.
People will have access to “Lady Liberty” about three days prior to the event, or they can watch it, along with others, when it livestreams June 25 on Zoom and the JFI Facebook page. The episode will start at 5:30 p.m. and will be followed at 6:15 p.m. by a Q&A with Lindon and director Taylor Lee Nagel, a comedic monologue and an open discussion (with a cocktail in hand, if desired). The event is free. For more details, visit jfi.org/ladyliberty.