January 10, 2020
The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival opened its 20th anniversary series this year on Feb. 10, just weeks before the first casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic was announced. During the festival, the full impact of the developing public healthcare crisis was yet to be felt in America and ticket sales were brisk for the three-week series.
The opening night film at the Cobb Energy Centre was “Shared Legacies,” a documentary that was subtitled “The African-American Jewish Civil Rights Alliance.” Prominently mentioned in the film was the friendship between Rabbi Peter Berg of The Temple and Rev. Raphael Warnock, the paster of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr.’s father was once the leader.
The past year’s dramatic events had a profound impact on the AJFF and on Warnock, who is locked in a close Jan. 5 runoff race for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia.
Likewise, the AJFF has worked hard during the past 11 months to attract the attention of local film goers with a series of online film discussions and virtual film screenings. The 2021 festival, which begins Feb. 17 is expected to screen only about 30 feature films, a sharp drop from the 50 or so this year.
Most screenings will be virtual during a dramatically shortened festival of only 12 days. Organizers are hopeful that traditional patrons won’t be distracted by the plethora of virtual Jewish film sites that have debuted during the past year. To maintain the interest of loyal ticket buyers who might miss the social aspects of a theatrical showing, the festival is said to be developing virtual events that will stimulate discussion of the films that are screened online.
There will also be a number of drive-in screenings, with social distancing, in The Home Depot Backyard, an 11-acre greenspace adjacent to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta.
The 2020 festival sold an estimated 38,000 tickets, ranking it among the largest of the about 200 Jewish film festivals around the world.