Bernstein and Bahr’s Best Bets for the 2019 AJFF
PreviewAJFF 2019

Bernstein and Bahr’s Best Bets for the 2019 AJFF

From all these great films, here are our best bets, three of which are dramas and three are documentaries.

The Dive, one of Bernstein and Bahr's recommendations for the 2019 AJFF.
The Dive, one of Bernstein and Bahr's recommendations for the 2019 AJFF.

This year’s selection at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival is a bountiful collection of more than 50 feature films and documentaries plus four programs of outstanding short films, all of which come with either expert introductions and commentary or interviews with filmmakers, actors and directors who participated in the creation of the films. From all these great films, here are our best bets: (Three are dramas and three are documentaries.)

“Shoelaces” – How a father reconnects with a son who is developmentally disabled after abandoning him for more than 30 years, and what it means to the son and what it means to the father. Over the course of this opening night film from Israel, a new, strong bond, a kind of shoelace, develops to tie them together, highlighted by strong performances and a director who has real life experience with a developmentally disabled child. One of the stars, Nevo Kimchi, will be interviewed at the screening at the Cobb Energy Center.

“The Other Story” – Essentially about two young women and their respective families. One is newly committed to an ultra-Orthodox way of life and an impending marriage and another is seeking a divorce and escape from the constrictions of what she sees as an oppressive marriage. A rich and multi-layered film that explores the issues that arise when we try to control the life of another person. This film offers a great cast and a perfect example of Israeli filmmaking at its highest from veteran director Avi Nesher, who will be appearing at the festival with his film.

“The Tale” – Simple title for what may be among the most complex and provocative films being offered at this year’s festival. Laura Dern’s brilliant portrayal of a middle-aged woman coming to terms with the sexual abuse she suffered as a young teen won a Golden Globe award earlier this month.  Dern, who started her career as a child actress at the age of 11, may have felt echoes of her own experiences. She is the cover story in this month’s Vanity Fair. Some very graphic and even, in the words of one reviewer, raw, scenes. But it’s an exceptional film that won a lengthy standing ovation from the audience at the Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered.

“Who Will Write Our History?” – A story of extraordinary heroism in the most difficult of circumstances. A brave group of historians and scholars set out to write the history of the Warsaw Ghetto under the very noses of their Nazi occupiers. In effect, they fight their battle with the only weapons they possess – the power of the pen and the printed word – and they succeed brilliantly. Ably produced by, among others, Nancy Spielberg, the sister of the renowned filmmaker.

“The Jewish Underground” – This film is an amazing eye opener. It focuses on an extremist, fundamentalist group of 27 Jews in Israel in the 1980s who plot acts of murder and violence against Palestinians. Before they are apprehended, they create a plan to blow up the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. The drama unfolds like a detective story that is quite thrilling. What is even more remarkable is that the group today, after serving their prison sentence, is more influential than ever before in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. They have access to the prime minister and they are perfectly comfortable with what they tried to do decades ago. They have gone from the extreme to the mainstream of Israeli political life.

“93Queen” – A real crowd pleaser. An inspiring story, told with verve and wit, of how a group of ultra-Orthodox women start their own ambulance service for women in Brooklyn despite  opposition from ultra-Orthodox men where they live. They want to enforce the separation of the sexes that informs Hasidic life, but they are  pilloried for it.  This is a fascinating portrait of female empowerment in the Hasidic community. The Orthodox filmmaker, Paula Eiselt, will be appearing at the Festival with her film.

Also recommended are the following dramatic films: “The Dive,” “Noble Savage,” and the classic from 1989, “Enemies, A Love Story.” Among the documentaries that are particularly impressive are: “King Bibi: The Life and Performances of Benjamin Netanyahu,” “Alt-Right – Age of Rage,” “Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of The People,” “Love, Gilda,” and “Chewdaism: A Taste of Jewish Montreal,” which is the closing night film at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center.

The two featured performers in the concluding film, Eli Batalion and Jamie Elman, will be interviewed and there will be a complementary buffet after the performance.

Matthew Bernstein is the Goodrich C. White Professor and Chair of the Department of Film and Media Studies at Emory University and an AJFF board member. Bob Bahr is with the Center for Media and the Moving Image and frequently lectures on film and modern society.

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