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Yonkers Film Festival Brings The Community Together

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YoFi Fest, the Yonkers-based film festival featuring films from across the globe, celebrates its third anniversary this year, from October 22 to 25. We talked to the festival’s executive director, Dave Steck, about starting the festival, this year’s highlights, and how it’s bringing the community together. 

Where did the idea to start a film festival come from?

My wife and I moved to Westchester from Manhattan, and we would commiserate sometimes. While we enjoyed living in a nice house and having a yard, there were things we missed about the city. One day we said, ‘Somebody should do a film festival.’ We were fortunate to have a combination of unbridled enthusiasm and ignorance. For that combination we went, ‘This’ll be easy. We work in the film business. We know people.’ It’s tough, but it’s been incredibly rewarding. 

Why Yonkers?

One of the reasons we decided to have a film festival in Westchester was that it didn’t have any other film festivals. It had small festivals, but nothing that would be a major festival, which seemed odd because Westchester has so many different kinds of people, many of whom are interested in arts and culture. Yonkers has the population to support something like this. It’s also extremely easy to get to. The city was so welcoming to us and has been very supportive. 

What are some of the highlights of this year’s festival?

This year, we’re going to really showcase things in blocks to reach different communities and show different types of filmmaking. We are going to present a block of Japanese short films—the style is so different; there’s much more silence. Thursday will feature a really fun, food-centric film with a special tasting featuring the main dish of the film. Saturday, we’re going to focus on comedy. We’re partnering with Upright Citizens Brigade. [Our goal is] to provide an immersive experience. If the subject of the documentary is food, then we’ll have that kind of food there. If it’s music, then we’ll have that type of music. 

And you throw parties?

We have terrific parties. Friday is our red carpet reception with catering from Peter Kelly, Slovenia Vodka cocktails, and beer by Yonkers Brewing Co. Saturday night’s party is at 66 Main. It’s an event space on a rooftop terrace with a great view of Yonkers’ downtown and will feature movie-themed karaoke. Our closing night after-party will be at Dolphin, right on the waterfront. 

What do you feel sets YoFi Fest apart?

I’ve been to a lot of festivals all over the country and all over the world. We wanted to have a festival experience that we weren’t seeing other places. A lot of festivals that I’ve been to, you either have a lot of film industry people or a lot of students attending. At YoFi Fest, we have this really diverse group of people—some of whom are filmmakers or students—but a lot of them are just people who are curious about seeing something new. People who have nothing in common except they both have some interest in movies. We take a diverse group of people and we connect them more than I think most festivals do.

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