Mal Vincent: A 20-year rapport with the Film Festival

by | Jan 11, 2013 | What’s Happening

Thursday, Jan. 24

The Virginian- Pilot’s veteran film reviewer, Mal Vincent has been a part of the Simon Family JCC’s Virginia Festival of Jewish Film since its inception in 1993.

Vincent began reviewing movies such as Leon the Pig Farmer (which ran in 1993 and will show this year) when the Festival started at the Naro Theater.

In the early years of the Festival, the Naro would exclusively show Jewish Film Festival movies during one week in December. “It used to be that I would hole up every Thanksgiving and watch all the films to review for the Festival,” says Vincent. “Thanksgiving and Jewish films went hand in hand for me.” The Festival now takes place in January, but this isn’t the only change.

The selection of available films has become more diverse and now deals with all kinds of subjects. “It used to be that the majority of the films were about the Holocaust and were somewhat downbeat,” notes Vincent. “More recently, the films have evolved into true adventures in world cinema.”

Whether from Israel, France, Croatia or elsewhere, it has become an international as much as a Jewish film festival. “The films I get to see are gems that I wouldn’t normally get to review for the public, because they aren’t Hollywood main stream.”

This year will be the fifth time Vincent has his own designated night, the Mal Vincent “Pick” night, where he chooses an ‘oldie but goodie’ movie from Hollywood that has Jewish content. His past picks are Gentleman’s Agreement, The Pawnbroker, Ship of Fools and Crossfire. Yentl, starring Barbra Streisand, is Vincent’s choice this year. “My self-assignment is to present the popular Hollywood conception of Judaism for one night of the Festival.”

The selection of this “Pick” coincides with Streisand’s first leading role in a movie in 15 years, The Guilt Trip. “Streisand produced Yentl, directed it, sang songs for all the characters, and she’s an unparalleled talent,” says Vincent.

“I am one of the few reporters who has gotten to know Barbra, and I have funny and unusual stories to tell about her, which is why you must come to the show,” says Vincent. “But what an ego…do come out to hear what I mean before Yentl screens on Jan. 24.”

Vincent relishes his involvement with the Virginia Festival of Jewish Film. “It is an exciting happening in film every year,” he says, “a true adventure in world cinema.”

Film Festival passes and tickets are available at the Simon Family JCC front desk, online at or by calling 321-2338. The Festival opens with a free film at the JCC Sunday, Jan. 13, Opening Night and Gala is at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, Jan. 19. The Festival continues at the TCC Roper Performing Arts Center Jan. 20-27.

Simon Family JCC is a constiuent agency of United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.

by Leslie Shroyer