The opening night gala for the 19-year-old Atlanta Jewish Film Festival greeted in-crowders and movie aficionados Feb. 6 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.
Later a packed house attended the movie “Shoelaces,” an Atlanta premier about an exuberant special needs son in a tender family drama.
The star-themed gala reception – open only to patrons and sponsors – featured food tasting created by celebrity chefs and an open bar. Sponsor partners walked the red carpet to enter the patron reception for 900 guests. The lavish kaleidoscope ballroom was set in bold and elaborate, scrimped and gathered fabrics along with dramatic lighting.
“Look at this fabulous room elevating our theme ‘See the World on Film,’” said Martha Jo Katz, gala event chair and one of Atlanta’s most admired professional models and event site consultants. “Designer Jim White did a beautiful job executing it all. Each of the restaurant stations has this year’s poster and fabulous uplighting with the flowing warm and exciting colors of world cultures in tangerine, lemon, melon, royal blue and turquoise.”
Ever elegant, Katz donned a flowing print silk kimono-style floral by Johnny Was over a shimmering tangerine top. Her artistic jewelry by Reiss also reflected the carousel of all the world-themed hues.
Accepting accolades, White said, “We really went to great lengths to carry out the ‘windows to the world’ theme. I had flowers flown in from all over – the roses and lisianthus came from Israel.”
Sharon Seltman, in a geometric jacket, mused that she selected half documentaries and half fiction-drama films for the festival. Barbara Kaplan wore a soft pink jacket coat from a small store near Lake Oconee. She was excited to be heading to Israel on a Jewish National Fund tour during the last part of the film festival.
Josh Schaier, director of development for Jewish Educational Loan Fund, sported a crisp navy suit worn once “as a groomsman in somebody else’s wedding with the shoes that his wife got him for his own wedding.”
Of the film lineup, Assistant Regional ADL Director David Hoffman said, “I am obsessed with ‘Blazing Saddles,’ so I am looking forward to the Western slapstick ‘The Frisco Kid’ with Gene Wilder and Harrison Ford.”
Sponsor Barbara Mendel was anticipating “The Tale,” written and directed by Jennifer Fox, the sister-in-law of her daughter, Jennifer Mendel Fox. “The Tale” stars Laura Dern as a journalist who reckons with her own childhood sexual abuse as she unravels the truth.
Davis Academy teacher Catherine Solomon, accompanied by financial advisor Brad Cohen, was up for Young Professionals Night Feb. 16, “Leona,” about forbidden love between a young woman from Mexico City from a Syrian Jewish family and a non-Jewish suitor.
Sponsor Marc Adler, who loans his 75-person Macquarium building’s auditorium for AJFF film viewing throughout the year, accompanied his parents Gail and Louis, who flew in from Houston to attend the event. Gail wore a wavy print dress and pumps by Givenchy. Marc had contrasting film choices. “I want to see ‘Gilda,’ but also the horror story “The Golem,” a supernatural suspense tale from reimagined Jewish folklore as the plague hits Eastern Europe and the blame falls on religious Jews.”
AJFF Community Engagement Co-chair Marcy Bass and Lauren Eisenman, both evaluators, were into opening night’s “Shoelaces” and the Joseph Pulitzer documentary. Eisenman was looking forward to “93 Queen” because she had screened it and found it to be empowering. “93 Queen” is a documentary about ultra- Orthodox women creating New York’s first all-female ambulance corps.
Helen Oxman Kraus, in Olive Olivia from Bloomingdale’s, had her eyes set on “Alt-Right.” Sponsor Mark Rudel is betting on “Holy Lands” with veteran actor James Caan.
The 14 food vendors, in addition to the four dessert and coffee stations in the lobby, helped guests tour the culinary world: Persian Zafron Restaurant, Moroccan Imperial Fez, Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse, and Chai Yo Modern Thai. Others were C. Ellet’s steakhouse. Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, Kaiser’s Chophouse, Secreto Southern Kitchen & Bar, South City Kitchen, and Watershed on Peachtree.
A new face on the chef horizon is Sephardic Israeli chef Avi Yonatan, Baroque Culinary Services. He served stuffed prunes with veal in sweet red wine sauce, carrot soufflé and raspberry marshmallows.
Il Giallo Osteria & Bar served short smoked salmon with pickled red beet puree and cremini mushrooms. Special props go to Cafe Sunflower, vegetarian Buffalo lollipops, soy chicken drumsticks (with a sugar cane rod subbing for the bone) and spring rolls.
The sole kosher vendor was For All Occasions and More Jodie Sturgeon serving Turkey Wellington and mushroom lentil salad.
The chefs interviewed acknowledged that their best customers mirror the AJFF avid year-round movie goers, and that they were happy to contribute to this community. Zafron’s smart and fortunate chef owner Peter Teimori, is positioned steps away from the new City Springs AJFF movie venue.
AJFF Executive Director Kenny Blank said, “With nearly 2,000 moviegoers at Cobb Energy Centre, we are humbled and delighted to welcome such a diverse cross section of the community to opening night. From the spectacular preshow gala, to the laughter and tears of the warmly received Atlanta premiere of ‘Shoelaces,’ we could not have hoped for a better kickoff to this 21-day extravaganza of culture and cinema. We look forward to sharing many more remarkable cinematic stories with our passionate and dedicated audience.”
Truly there is something for everyone at Atlanta’s nationally renowned film festival.
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- AJFF 2019
- Atlanta Jewish Film Festival
- Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
- Jim White
- Sharon Seltman
- Barbara Kaplan
- Josh Schaier
- David Hoffman
- Blazing Saddles
- The Frisco Kid
- Gene Wilder
- Harrison Ford
- Barbara Mendel
- The Tale
- Jennifer Mendel Fox
- Laura Dern
- Catherine Solomon
- Brad Cohen
- Marc Adler
- The Golem
- Marcy Bass
- Lauren Eisenman
- 93 Queen
- Helen Oxman Kraus
- Mark Rudel
- Holy Lands
- Persian Zafron Restaurant
- Moroccan Imperial Fez
- Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse
- Chai Yo Modern Thai
- C. Ellet’s steakhouse
- Kaiser’s Chophouse
- Secreto Southern Kitchen & Bar
- South City Kitchen
- Watershed on Peachtree
- Avi Yonatan
- Cafe Sunflower
- For All Occasions and More
- Jodie Sturgeon
- Kenny Blank
- Fuego Mundo