We're incredibly proud that AJFF attracts some of the most talented, passionate people. We rely heavily on this village to make AJFF what it is, and we're going to introduce you to some of the people who make up that village. From our staff, to our volunteers, or even to members of our audience, there's a huge group of people that make AJFF a world-class cultural event. This month, we're putting the spotlight on an AJFF summer intern and former member of the 2017 AJFF Festival Jury, Emory graduate student, Sara Grasberg. Sara is currently working on and plays a vital role in AJFF’s debut AJFF on Campus, this year at Emory University.
A Little Bit About Sara
I was born and raised in Queens, NY and graduated from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA in 2014 with a B.A. in Film Studies and Media & Communication. I moved to Atlanta in August of 2016 to pursue my M.A. degree in Film & Media Studies at Emory University. In the two years between, I worked in New York City’s independent film distribution scene, doing everything from grassroots marketing/outreach to educational sales. I also ran my own movie review blog.
How did you come to be involved with AJFF?
I was lucky enough to be recommended by one of my professors at Emory to serve as a student juror at this past year’s AJFF. I served on the jury for the Human Rights prize. While this was my first actual experience of the festival, I also heard really great things about AJFF back when I was first accepted to Emory. It was honestly one of the things that made me really interested and confident in choosing Emory. So, it feels really rewarding to have gone on to intern with AJFF this summer, and to be helping to bring the festival to Emory’s campus this fall.
What is the most interesting challenge, in improving AJFF, that you get to help with?
The most interesting challenge for me has been figuring out how to bring AJFF to new audiences, specifically a college-aged audience. Especially as AJFF continues to grow, I think this is something that this festival—and probably many others, as well—hope to accomplish. So, I’m excited to be involved with planning the first ever AJFF On Campus at Emory; it means I get to help expand AJFF’s reach to include one of Atlanta’s universities, exposing its students to the kinds of educational and entertaining films that AJFF programs for its main festival every year.
What is your fondest memory from being involved with AJFF?
Getting to help out at two of this summer’s AJFF Selects screenings—Menashe and Monkey Business: The Adventures of Curious George’s Creators—was certainly a highlight. It was fulfilling to see a lot of the logistical details that I’d worked with in my internship all fall into place and come to life. Also, I just had so much fun meeting and greeting special guests and excited AJFF attendees, as well as helping to set up and load out equipment.
But, I also had many amazing, fulfilling experiences on jury deliberation day back in February, including meeting Dr. Deborah Lipstadt; this encounter led me to be a Teaching Assistant for a course she is teaching this semester! So, that was definitely another notable highlight of my time with AJFF.
How has your experience outside of AJFF played into your time with the festival?
Having an understanding of the film distribution side of things was definitely helpful. But, more specifically, my role in educational sales for a documentary distribution company and, later, doing marketing for their academic streaming service helped me think about how best to promote something like AJFF On Campus to the Emory community. Plus, through that marketing role, I’d encourage schools to program on-campus events using the documentaries available on the streaming platform; having made those kinds of suggestions in the past helped me brainstorm add-on programming elements for films in consideration for AJFF On Campus.
What's your favorite AJFF film, and why?
From this past year’s festival, I’d have to pick The Jews, a satirical French anthology that depicts and provocatively picks apart many anti-Semitic stereotypes. There are certain segments from the film that have just stuck with me because they were so surprisingly harrowing and genuinely heartbreaking, or because they were so outlandish and absurd. I’m a firm believer that comedy, and especially satire, can be the most effective tools in conveying and critiquing the ridiculousness and horror of prejudice, and to me, this film really proved that.
Who would you cast to play you in a film?
Alia Shawkat! She was on a show called State of Grace from 2001-2004, in which she played a 12-year-old Jewish girl from a middle-class family, who is best friends with a 12-year-old wealthy Catholic girl, during the 1960s. I adored this show as a kid, and thought we looked so much alike at the time (we’re even around the same age). I’ve loved Shawkat and have followed her career ever since. Even though we’re not exact doppelgängers anymore, if she dyed her hair red, it’d be pretty close; and besides which, I think she’d get my voice and overall demeanor exactly right.
Thank you to Sara for her time this month. AJFF is lucky to have had her and our many other interns, who have been involved over the years. If you or anyone you know is interested in being an AJFF intern, let us know. Stay tuned to see who we profile next month.