The films shown at the TJFF express a cultural-mythic or a cultural-skeptic dynamic; they either support or reject the cultural values inherent within the cultural hegemony -- in this case, the voice of mainstream Judaism.
However, the TJFF repositions any such understanding by including the cultural source in the discussion, thereby recognizing the position of the audience within the performative frame of the film and festival.
The dialogical discourse of the TJFF is not limited within a binary or dialectical frame; frequently, it emerges in what Bakhtin has labeled "polyphony." "Polyphony calls attention to the coexistence, the collaborative antagonism in any textual or extratextual situation: a plurality of voices which do not fuse into a single consciousness, but rather exist on different registers and thus generate dialogical dynamism" (Stam 1991:262).
This dynamic, and these alternatives, are by design the basis of the TJFF. For example, I noted to Helen Zukerman my disappointment with the Festival that I had not seen my own experience of Judaism on screen.
Fun, enjoyment, intellectual provocation, to be in the process of working though what it means to be a diasporic Jew in the late 20th century -- a process aided by artistic representations like film -- TJFF is one of the most important Jewish events in the city because it has managed to attract the most diverse cross-section of Jews to assemble in one place for a community event.
The nostalgic, the "bittersweet remembrance of things past" (Brown 1997:174) gives many festivals, including the TJFF, meaning.
In many respects, the TJFF is what Ralph Linton called a "nativistic movement": "any conscious, organized attempt on the part of a society's members to revive or perpetuate selected aspects of its culture....certain current or remembered elements of culture are selected for emphasis and given symbolic value" (quoted in Brown 1997:xi).
At TJFF, Jews can look back to either the nineteenth century shtetl,(7) or to being "the Chosen People," as idealized time periods of unquestioning identity and community solidarity.
Rather than being expressions of hegemonically oriented consumer marketplaces, phenomena like the TJFF celebrate the culture which supports them.