Each year, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival offers a wide variety of films exploring stories from different walks of life and movies that resonate with diverse tastes. In this special Director’s Cut section of the AJT, we go behind the scenes with three directors and explore three very distinct and gripping films from the upcoming festival. We learn more about the directors’ creative process, their inspirations, and what they hope the audiences takes away from their films.
After six successful films, including two featured in past Atlanta Jewish Film Festivals, Jonathan Gruber began directing the film “Upheaval” in April of 2019. He finished it just in time for the Heartland International Film Festival premiere in October 2020.
In “Upheaval,” Gruber accentuates the ongoing struggle against anti-Semitism in the U.S. and around the world. “Upheaval” narrates the adulation of former Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin and his fight against anti-Semitism, and for equality, democracy and unity.
Gruber has an incredible affinity toward Begin due to his audacious leadership protecting the land of Israel and the Jewish people. Gruber said he strongly believes that when your entire family has been wiped out, it impacts the way you look at the world.
Through the film, Gruber said he hopes people will learn about Begin’s courageous leadership and accountability, so rare these days. “Today there is a lack of faith that people have in their political leaders and institutions,” Gruber said. “With Menachem Begin, whether you agree or disagree with him, you could not say that he is a hypocrite.”
As a Jewish filmmaker with a background in journalism, he travels to Israel quite often, whether it is to visit family or work on a film. His love for Israel and its people is represented in his films, which express the complexities of Israeli society to connect to the people and the land’s ancient history.
“Upheaval” is a film that sheds light on discrimination in the political and social arena, the Holocaust and Israel’s will to prevail against anti-Semitism. Gruber revisits Begin’s resilience toward anti-Semitism in the film. “If Jews didn’t stand up for Jews, then who would?”
Gruber’s main goal is to tell Begin’s story, for people to understand how the Holocaust infused his attitude toward Israel, the Jewish people and the rest of the world. “Anti-Semitism is just as bad as racism, and we should stand up and fight it like Begin did,” Gruber said.
The film director’s ties to Atlanta include his participation in the AJFF; interviewing and connecting with Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, who was the domestic policy adviser to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. The 39th president is mentioned numerous times throughout the film.