A community influencer has the ability to affect positive change and Jeremy Lentz is doing just that. As the Executive Director of the Teaneck International Film Festival (TIFF), he has adopted the permanent theme of “Activism: Making Change” with goals of fostering an appreciation of differences and encouraging efforts to help make the world a better place.
Jeremy’s vision for TIFF is to be recognized and celebrated as one of the leading social justice film festivals in the United States, making Teaneck a perfect home base for the festival. The township, having a history of tolerance and diversity, was named by the US military after WWII as a model community when considering rebuilding Japan. Teaneck was also the first town in the 1960s to voluntarily desegregate its public schools and the first school district to develop a Holocaust curriculum that was replicated throughout New Jersey. Jeremy feels the festival pays homage to Teaneck’s traditions and history by featuring films that inspire people to become engaged and hopefully making a difference in their own communities.
The festival is already New Jersey’s most respected and influential social justice film festival and has promoted positive changes by fostering discussions and raising awareness of current issues. The featured films and audience discussion illustrate what TIFF is about – making controversial subjects part of everyday conversation—whether about racism, oppression, the environment, the LGBTQ community, women’s concerns or immigration—stories about the little guy whose voice is often unheard.
With an impressive repertoire of films screened during the event, Jeremy says the one that stands out most is The Central Park Five. After successfully organizing a group to save the Teaneck Cinemas when it was abandoned by the former owner, Matt Latten, its new owner decided to restore the venue to its 1920s art-deco style and upgraded its technology. That year, with the help of The Innocence Project, TIFF secured the rights to The Central Park Five and presented it as a free screening on the opening night of the festival. “We had over 700 in attendance. We also hosted one of the filmmakers along with two of The Central Park Five. The film was one of the most powerful and relevant films we’ve shown and left an indelible mark on me. It was a magical night and a great way to re-open Bergen County’s oldest and most historic movie theater,” Jeremy said.
Each year, there are two major challenges that face TIFF — the first is securing funding from both sponsors and individual donors and the second is to contribute more to the community by growing the festival. This year TIFF is excited to announce that the festival is being recognized by HBO which will join Davis, Saperstein & Salomon P.C., Fairleigh Dickinson University and Holy Name Medical Center as part of the festival’s official sponsors.
For more information about this year’s film festival taking place during November 14 –17, visit www.teaneckfilmfestival.org