AJFF: Shorts Programs 1 & 2
AJFF PreviewFilm

AJFF: Shorts Programs 1 & 2

The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival returns for its 23rd anniversary with a slate of compelling, emotional and thought-provoking films.

"Shorts 2"
"Shorts 2"

The AJFF’s short film showcases are one of the most criminally overlooked aspects of this festival. Every year, the AJFF Film Evaluation Committee (of which I have been a member for many years and was co-chair for five seasons) gets hundreds of shorts submitted for consideration, and yet only about a dozen are selected to be included in the festival. Think about how good a short has to be to make it onto our screens.

Short films are the lifeblood of the film industry… a place for new actors, writers, and directors to cut their teeth and get noticed. You would be hard pressed to find a great director today who did not get their start making shorts.

What’s more, many award-winning films got their start as shorts. Boogie Nights, Whiplash, Napoleon Dynamite, and Shiva Baby – a very popular film from a few years ago at the AJFF — were all originally shorts that were so successful their creators were able to make full-length features out of them.

This year, our shorts come in so many shapes and sizes, I’m not sure which ones to highlight for you…

There’s The Peacock That Passed Over, a breezy four minute documentary that was so delightful and cute that I watched it three times, laughing harder each time. The next time I am in England, I want to visit the synagogue in this film to see the peacock for myself!

“Shorts 1”

At the other end of the spectrum is The Caretaker, our longest short at 18 minutes. It is an astonishing true tale of a museum employee who risks everything to save Jewish works of art during the Holocaust. I was utterly captivated by this film, marveling at how swiftly I was drawn into the characters and the cause. It could have easily been expanded into a full-length film and I would not have batted an eye at sitting there for another hour watching this story.

The beautifully animated, The Record, is a stirring meditation on memory and music. It will make you ask questions about your own past as the images and sounds wash over you. This award-winning film is a prime example of the art of filmmaking. Pay special attention to the way the transitions from scene to scene and the shifts from black-and-white to color are both part of telling the story and generating an emotional response from the viewer.

And I think Anne is perhaps the most compelling film in the mix this year. A simple setup – two actresses each hoping to win the role of Anne Frank at an audition – is transformed into a story of prejudice and preconceived notions; race and reality. I had a tough time picking sides while watching it. The film raises important questions and provides no easy answers. There’s no question this is a short the audience will be talking about after it is over.

I could go on and on about the rest of the films selected to be a part of our shorts programs. Each brings something special to the table. And if you happen to disagree with me and think one of these shorts is “just ok” rather than being excellent… well, that’s the best thing about watching a shorts film showcase… a new film will be coming along in only a couple of minutes.

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