Kenny Schnurr and Micah Smith are concerned about Jewish education. "One of the problems is that students are not interested [in what's being taught]," Schnurr said. "The students are used to this very engaging visual language [of the media], and the teachers don't have anything to compete with that."
So Smith and Schnurr, both filmmakers in their 20s, teamed up to create J-Flicks, a series of educational "trigger" films that repackage esoteric Jewish concepts in a slick neo-MTV style garb for a media savvy audience.
The first of the J-Flicks, which was shown Wednesday night at the Museum of Tolerance is "The World To Come" -- an eight-minute short that examines the beliefs and misconceptions associated with its titular locale in the light of traditional Jewish sources like the Pirke Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers) and the Barternura (a medieval biblical commentator). It's not a plodding documentary, but rather a combination of educational film and narrative film that deftly uses animation, special effects and humor to explain the connection between this world and the world to come and to explicate an otherwise abstruse notion that is an inherent part of the Jewish tradition.
Smith and Schnurr hope to make 10 such films at a budget of $100,000 each about different matters of Jewish philosophy, and then sell them, along with an educators' package, to day schools, youth groups and Jewish orgnaizations on college campuses. J-Flicks aim to reach Jews across the spectrum of Jewish religious experience, and to use the films to trigger discussion about the concepts.
"This film focuses on the world to come but touches on different issues, like perception, the oral tradition, history," said Smith, who graduated from New York University Film School and has made other trigger films about Jewish identity that are used by Hillels. "The teacher can take it in a million different directions."
"Jews have mastered the tools of Hollywood, but they haven't been using them for anything Jewish" Schnurr said. "But the power that film has is something that can be used for a lot of good."
For more information visit www.jflicks.com .