AJFF: Slicing Up the Festival Films

AJFF: Slicing Up the Festival Films

Michael Jacobs

Atlanta Jewish Times Editor Michael Jacobs is on his second stint leading the AJT's editorial operations. He previously served as managing editor from 2005 to 2008.

The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival does everyone a service in its program guide by breaking its movies into categories, from the broad (funny stories) to the specific (Hispanic life). But in case you need more help, here are a few more themes among the 55 features and 20 shorts.

Not-So-Fine Dining

Because food is central to Jewish life, it’s not surprising that meals play a crucial part in several films. But a unifying theme this year is food played for laughs.

Michael Jacobs
Michael Jacobs

The main courses on the menu are “The Pickle Recipe,” a comedy about a deli, and the fourth of the four shorts programs, which includes “The Last Blintz,” a documentary about the closing of an iconic Times Square eatery, and “The Chop,” a comedy about a kosher butcher who works at a halal meat shop.

Substantial appetizers include “The Women’s Balcony,” in which fundraising and food go hand in hand and in which a seder confrontation proves pivotal; “Moos,” which uses a seder to establish the characters, then largely takes place in the arts school cafe where the title character works, with a few key stops in the kosher deli operated by her uncle; “The Tenth Man,” which obsesses over food, from the distribution of food to Jews in need in Buenos Aires to the grudges of a kosher butcher to the main character’s favorite childhood snack; “Radio Days,” which serves all the fish you could ever want; and “The Green Park,” in which kosher food provides a reason for British Jews to gather.

For a non-Jewish palate cleanser, add “Family Commitments,” whose main Muslim family operates a restaurant.

For dessert, you can’t beat “My Favorite Year” and the Filipino-tinged dinner prepared by Benjy Stone’s ex-boxer stepfather, Rookie Carroca.

Bad Parenting

The festival offers several films that demonstrate that father (or mother) doesn’t always know best.

Protagonist Ariel spends most of “The Tenth Man” wandering around Buenos Aires, running errands for his father, Usher, who is too busy (or too manipulative) to see his visiting son.

The title character in “Moos” is so stifled by life with her widower father that she clips his fingernails for him, yet she still has a hard time seeing him fall for another woman.

“Family Commitments” stretches the Jewish mother stereotype to farcical extremes, fueled by mother Lea’s key to son David’s apartment and her refusal to recognize any boundaries, even in the bathroom.

The fascist-turned-Jew in “Keep Quiet” can blame his life reversal on the truth his mother and grandmother kept from him.

The fictional “Past Life” and documentary “Aida’s Secrets” both explore the pain experienced by adult children as they unravel parents’ Holocaust-era secrets.

Toughest Loss

It’s said that nothing is harder to handle than the death of a child, and several films make that point.

The motivation to spread anti-Hitler postcards in “Alone in Berlin” is the killing of a son during Germany’s conquest of France in 1940.

A son’s death turns a man into a pothead in “One Week and a Day.”

After a car accident kills their older son, the parents in “Abulele” are too stricken by grief to meet the needs of their surviving child, who finds a friend in the title creature.

One cop is pushed to the edge after a terrorist bomb kills his son, while another officer desperately searches for his missing boy in “Wounded Land.”

Cross Purposes

If you enjoy a good giggle related to a crucifix — not a big deal in a festival screening “The Last Laugh,” about Holocaust humor — you shouldn’t miss “The Jews,” in which Mossad agent Norbert replaces Jesus on the cross, or “In Between,” whose title takes on an unexpected meaning involving the cross a Palestinian Christian wears.

read more: