Jay Rosenblatt, program director at the Jewish Film Institute, discusses films with the youth jury for the 2019 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. (Photo/Courtesy JFI)
Jay Rosenblatt, program director at the Jewish Film Institute, discusses films with the youth jury for the 2019 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. (Photo/Courtesy JFI)

New JFI fellowship for teens into films and changing the world

Teenagers who love movies — and abhor injustice — can take part in a new program created by the S.F.-based Jewish Film Institute.

The JFI Social Change Film Fellowship is designed to give 15- to 18-year-olds real-world experience in the work of evaluating and disseminating social-issue films. In essence, the program aims to show young people the power of film to do good.

Participants will work alongside JFI programmers, filmmakers-in-residence and the  marketing team to craft and promote screenings and public conversations around documentary and narrative films that have been programmed by JFI.

The JFI, known largely as the organization that runs the annual San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, prides itself on screening a wide array of films that focus on issues of civil rights, racial justice, human rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ equality and the environment.

“JFI presents films that reflect the Jewish value of tikkun olam,” JFI stated in its announcement of the program.

In recent years, JFI has included in its annual summer festivals a “Take Action Day” that specifically connects films being shown to local organizations working on related issues, so that motivated filmgoers can find ways to “do something about it.” Another initiative, called “Next Wave” programming, promotes films that hold special interest for the under-35 crowd.

During the pandemic, most film festivals have shifted, rather successfully, to virtual screenings, and the SFJFF is no exception. The work of the teens in the Social Change Film Fellowship will take place virtually, as well.

Starting this April, the fellows will attend virtual meetings via Zoom every month until it is deemed Covid-safe to meet in person. The fellowship will run through June 2022, and applicants must commit to attending JFI fellow events, including the “Next Wave” and “Take Action Day” events, year round.

Fellows will be viewing a wide variety of films and developing community connections — and possibly taking steps toward future careers in the film industry. They will hone their ability to critically evaluate quality films, and have opportunities to discuss films and the nuts and bolts of filmmaking with industry professionals. They also will meet people from a wide range of local social justice nonprofits as part of their work in creating public programs and events.

JFI is seeking an inaugural cohort of 12 teens from any ethnic, racial and religious background. The 15-month fellowship comes with a stipend of $1,500 ($100 per meeting) plus a “Next Wave” pass to the next edition of the SFJFF.

For more information or to apply, visit jfi.org. The final date to apply is April 9.

Laura Pall
Laura Paull

Laura Paull is J.'s former culture editor, and was a longtime J. freelance writer before that.