The first question we keep on hearing is: why organize this event up in Pleasantville, NY? Well, the short answer is: the Jacob Burns.
It would be too easy to say that the Jacob Burns is just a non profit educational & cultural center, but it is so so much more. The Burns is a vision. That of Steve Apkon and his remarkable team. A vision that 11 years ago many thought would quickly fade away. On the contrary it has bloomed and shined. It has not only revived a small town, it has changed the way thousands of people look at the world.
I love attending festivals that handpick a manageable amount of films and take place in one venue. They're convenient - you don't have to run all over town, and after a couple of screenings, you start identifying fellow attendees and making friends. Once you've seen a few movies with the same people, you connect somehow. At the Jacob Burns, you get that feeling every time. This is a community theater in the best sense of the word. A community of filmlovers sharing a discovery.
In comparison, audiences in big cities seem more divided. To grow an event you have to cater to your base. Thanks to the Jacob Burns, we get people watching the ANA films who would never go to an Arab film fest. Many don't have roots in the Arab world; their best friend is not Arab. They simply trust Brian Ackerman and his programmers to bring them the best of the best from that year's crop.
That's a gift to me as a curator, and, to the filmmakers who usually have a hard time getting their films seen beyond their regional base.
That's "Why the Burns" is the home of ANA.