Rani Sanderson, Film Programmer

5 questions to...

After my ‘5 Questions‘ to the Manchester Jazz Festival’s Artistic Director and to the Toronto Design Offsite Festival executive team, I’m sharing insights from Rani Sanderson, Film Programmer at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival. Rani is also a video artist and an arts educator for children, specialising in digital storytelling and creative writing programs.

1. Hi Rani! Your next festival opens on 11th April. What’s a typical day right now?

Right now, since all of the films are programmed and set, I’m just preparing my introductions for the screenings I will be presenting.  Trying to remember what the films were about, researching any guests who will be attending and coming up with potential questions to get Q&As going.  It’s quite fun to relive all the films I saw so many months ago and remember why I liked them so much. In a few cases, I haven’t seen the films, so if I have time I will try to see those before I introduce them.  Otherwise, I’ll speak with programmers who have seen them for any input and insight they can provide.

2. You’ve been programming for TJFF for 3 years now. What gets easier with time? And what doesn’t?

I’ve been a full-on programmer for the past 3 festivals, but before that I was a junior programmer for a few years (with a 3 year break in between when I went back to school).  I don’t know if anything actually gets easier or more difficult…  I guess writing about the films gets a bit easier.  You could say my confidence is stronger each year, and my belief in my own opinions /critiques of the movies.  And perhaps, if anything, I’m a bit more picky about what makes a good film and what doesn’t, as the years pass.  Oh, and I always get nervous speaking in front of large audiences, so introducing films only gets easier as the festival goes on, but each year I’m equally petrified for my first few presentations.

3. Before, during or after the festival – what’s your favourite moment, the one that makes it all worth it?

Probably during the festival is the most fun and most rewarding.  I love the energy during the festival.  It’s a bit manic, but you end up running on adrenalin the entire time.  I love when people enjoy films I particularly love – especially when it was a riskier film to choose – when audiences appreciate those movies it’s worth taking the chance.

4. What other festival would you love to attend as audience member?

I’d love to go to South by South West.  Music and film together is a dream festival for me.

Other types of festivals – there’s a hot air balloon festival in Quebec (and one in New Mexico) that I’d love to go to because I love hot air balloons – a whole bunch of them would be so pretty (me and my camera would go crazy!) and I’ve always wanted to go up in one.  And I’d also love to go to La Tomatina one day.

(And of course, if there’s ever a dangerous foodstuffs festival* I’ll be there.)

5. How did you get into film programming?

I went to film school so I had the background, from an academic and technical standpoint.  Back then, I got a job at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, when it was a small organization with a very small staff, managing the box office and assisting the programmer. From there the film festival got much larger and my role there evolved.  I was always involved in one way or another over the past 15 + years and then, as I mentioned, I took a short break to go back to school and after I completed my master’s I was invited back as a programmer.


* This is an oblique reference to the recent UK ban on triangular flapjacks.

– – –

The 21st Toronto Jewish Film Festival runs from 11th to 21st April 2013. Artistic Director Helen Zukerman concludes her Welcome note with a lovely nod to the long tradition of festivals:

“Movie-going has changed, but the magical, larger-than-life communal spirit of a Festival has never changed.”

What do you think?

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