The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival has officially unveiled the 60 films selected for its 24th annual presentation. The early presentation at the Breman Museum on Jan. 7 was led by the museum’s director Leslie Gordon and longtime AJFF executive and artistic director Kenny Blank. They gave festival fans a look at over a dozen trailers for some of the most important films in this year’s lineup. A more complete listing of the full schedule debuted on the AJFF comprehensive website, www.AJFF.org the following day, Jan 8.
It was an early look at the festival’s selections, which begin on Feb. 13. There will be 14 days of theatrical screenings in five local theaters. That’s followed by an encore of about one-third of those same films being offered via online, on demand virtual screenings for another 10 days, before the closing night theatrical screening on March 7.
A committee of 150 volunteers labored over the summer and early fall to screen more than 650 films that were submitted this year. Forty narrative features and documentaries made the final cut, along with 20 short films that will be screened in three additional programs.
The opening night film is “Irena’s Vow,” an absorbing, suspenseful production, based on a true story of a young Polish Catholic housemaid who shelters a dozen Jews during the Holocaust literally under the nose of Nazis, in the basement of the home in which she works for a German military officer.
Blank was surprised and delighted by the quality of the films that were evaluated, given the dip in recent production due to the pandemic. Blank describes this year’s selections as among the strongest lineup that the festival has ever presented.
“I think truly, this year, what we are offering is really amazing. We have a really strong, eclectic mix of films. It’s a great banner year, I think, for Jewish cinema.”
There are three world premieres, six North American premieres, and over a dozen films being shown in the Southeast for the first time. Among the most highly anticipated of the premieres is “Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre,” a documentary directed by Israel filmmakers Yossi Block and Duki Dror about the tragic events of Oct. 7, 2023.
The documentary describes, as it happened, the attack by Hamas terrorists on an open-air music festival not far from the Gaza Strip. The tragic attack killed 364 civilians, wounded many more, and resulted in 40 hostages. The screening is being sponsored by the Consulate General of Israel to the Southeast.
The festival program guide describes it as a compilation of videos from cameras that some of the terrorists wore, from the phones of the victims, from dash cams and first responders’ recordings. The AJFF says it’s “a vivid, emotionally charged immersion into the nightmarish ordeal.”
Nearly half of the 40 feature length films in this year’s festival were produced either in Israel or feature aspect of life in the Jewish state. Among them is “Seven Blessings,” a drama tinged with comedy about a Moroccan Jewish family wedding that brings together a Moroccan bride and a French Ashkenazic groom. It won Best Film and nine other honors at Israel’s most recent Academy Awards.
Also being screened is the latest critically acclaimed film by the distinguished Israeli director Avi Nesher, “The Monkey House.” There’s a documentary about Golda Meir’s war diaries of the 1973 Yom Kippur War and “Home,” an explosive drama about the Ultra-Orthodox world in Israel.
One of the chairs of the film section committee, Hazel Gold, an Emory University professor, describes the offerings as providing a good close up of Israel during this very important moment in the country’s history.
“These are films that really give you a terrific insight into the nature of Israeli society. There are musicals, there are dramas, there are comedies. They cover all the genres.”
Altogether there are films from 20 countries in this year’s festival, including a documentary about the controversial Jewish American author, Norman Mailer, the American comic actor, Gene Wilder, and the closing night film about the brilliant American performer, Shari Lewis, and her beloved puppet, Lamb Chop.
In a world increasingly dominated by a hodgepodge of huge, impersonal online streaming services, the AJFF has once again assembled a carefully curated selection of dramas and true-life stories that, according to Blank, can engage and enlighten all of us.
“There’s no replicating that magic of the big screen and the shared reaction. It’s that energy that comes from seeing these movies together as an audience. And that’s what the festival is all about — creating community.”
- Arts and Culture
- Bob Bahr
- Atlanta Jewish Film Festival
- Breman Museum
- Leslie Gordon
- Kenny Blank
- Irena’s Vow
- Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre
- Yossi Block and Duki Dror
- Consulate General of Israel to the Southeast
- Seven Blessings
- Besser Holocaust Memorial Garden
- Monkey House
- Avi Nesher
- 1973 Yom Kippur War
- Hazel Gold
- Emory University
- Norman Mailer
- Gene Wilder
- Shari Lewis