AWFJ Women On Film – Carole Zabar’s Film Activism – Joanna Langfield interviews

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Mention “Zabar’s” to any New Yorker and mouthwatering dreams of the legendary gourmet emporium immediately pop into mind. But not all members of the Zabar family are to be found behind the deli counter, slicing Nova Scotia salmon. For the past several years, Carole Zabar has been cooking up a remarkable professional legacy of her own — and it’s all spreading a message of peace and love through film.

Carole Zabar is the founder of the Israel Film Center, and is currently kicking off her third annual Other Israel Film Festival, focusing on films that explore Israeli-Arab cultural interactions. Headquartered at the New York City Jewish Community Center, located just several blocks from the family store, the festival runs from runs from November 12 to 19, 2009.

“Israel is very important to me. I’ve lived there. I got my B.A and Master’s degrees from Hebrew University. And I love it. But the truth is, Israel isn’t perfect,” says Zabar.

JOANNA LANGFIELD: What are some of the ISSUES that concern you?

CAROLE ZABAR: They are mistreating the Arab minority, 20% of the population, and I wanted to get that word out. We’re not talking about people in the territories here, we’re talking about Palestinian Israelis. Citizens of Israel who have taken a loyalty oath, but are still discriminated against. It’s racism.

LANGFIELD: Why have you chosen to use film to get that message across? Why not a lecture series or through print media?

ZABAR: Nothing reaches anybody more than film. The images, the faces. It’s not an intellectual thing, it’s more emotional. It literally offers a changed view, seeing these Palestinian Israelis as people. And with the screenings, we also have events scheduled. Over the years, lots of Palestinian Israelis have come and they chat with the audience. This year, we’re expecting Sayed Kashua, the controversial journalist and writer to speak. The response from everyone has been fabulous.

LANGFIELD: You’re charging just $5.00 as an admission fee, and that certainly makes the screenings accessible to a wide audience….

ZABAR: Some events are free, too. Remember, these aren’t the kind of mainstream movies that I, for one, have become so bored with. No big Hollywood stars, no big special effects. We even have movies with subtitles. We do, however, have growing support from some major Hollywood people. Debra Winger and her husband, Arliss Howard, have just been fantastic. Tony Kushner, Natalie Portman, Jerry Stiller and Danny Glover are some of the others who’re behind us.

LANGFIELD: Tell me about the Israel Film Center. What’s its purpose?

ZABAR: We started out as a web site for all Israeli films, so people can see what’s out there. As an offshoot, we have started trying to get funding for productions. Seed money for directors. And we’re looking to get good distributors on board. It is so important to have the right distributor. Sony Classics, for instance, did a wonderful job with The Band’s Visit. Sure, it’s a great little film, but they pushed it with terrific marketing.

LANGFIELD: You are the key name behind what could be considered a controversial film festival. Was there any concern amongst family members that there could a backlash against your store?

ZABAR: Look, I went to law school when I was 49 years old. I practiced law for years. My husband wasn’t surprised and he supports what I’m doing. My brother-in-law? He’s a worry-wart. But all we got were one or two nasty e-mails and then it died down. We all felt better after that.

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Joanna Langfield

Her voice is heard throughout the 50 states and around the world by more than one million listeners on her syndicated radio programs: Joanna Langfield’s People Report and Video and Movie Minute. She’s also seen and heard as a regular contributing commentator on CNN International, CNN, Fox News and CNBC. In print, her articles have been published in such high profile magazines as Video Review and McCall’s. Joanna Langfield is known for taking interviews to another level with probing looks at celebrities’ insights rather than just their latest projects. As a result, she’s secured a niche among the nation’s premier interviewers and movie critics. Joanna began her career on the production staff of a local Boston television station. She then focused her energies towards radio and produced talk shows at WMEX-AM in Boston. After moving to New York, she became executive producer at WMCA-AM for talk show personalities Barry Gray and Sally Jessy Raphael. She began hosting a one-minute movie review spot which, in turn, led to her top-rated weekend call in-show, The Joanna Langfield Show (1980-83). Joanna moved to WABC-AM to host The Joanna Langfield Show on Saturday nights from 9:00pm to midnight. It was the highest rated show in its time slot. From 1987-1989, Joanna hosted Today’s People on the ABC Radio network, which was fed daily to over 300 stations around the country. She also appeared on WABC-TV as a regular on-air contributor. In 1989, Joanna formed her radio production company, Joanna Langfield Entertainment Reports, to syndicate her radio reports. She is considered to be one of the top authoritative commentators on the entertainment industry. Read Lagfield's recent articles below. For her Women On Film archive, type "Joanna Langfield" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).