As highlights of the 15th annual Atlanta Jewish Film Festival are announced Thursday, executive director Kenny Blank boasts battle-tested confidence that his staff and army of volunteers can handle just about anything.
“Anything” is a kind description for the abominable winter-weather challenges its 14th edition endured: the Snowpocalypse that shut down metro Atlanta last January as well as a subsequent snow event, causing the fest’s opening night gala and 17 other screenings to be postponed. After some hasty schedule reshuffling, all the shows went on and the fest still managed to draw 31,000.
“We have it on word from a higher authority that they’re going to take care of the weather this year,” Blank joked in an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The last one was quite a juggle.”
Still, Atlanta’s largest film festival and the country’s second-largest Jewish film festival (after San Francisco’s) will be as ambitious as ever in 2015, scheduling 165 screenings of 60 films representing 23 countries over 23 days, Jan. 28-Feb. 19.
“Above and Beyond: The Birth of the Israeli Air Force,” an American-made documentary about American and other foreign pilots who took to the skies in support of that nation’s War of Independence, will command the prestige opening night slot Jan. 28 at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. Producer Nancy Spielberg, the youngest of Steven Spielberg’s three sisters, will be featured in a post-screening Q&A.
The full lineup is expected to post online late morning on Dec. 19 at www.ajff.org, with tickets for sale on that site starting Jan. 11. Other highlights include:
- “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,” a portrait of a woman locked in an arranged Moroccan-Jewish marriage that is an indictment of harsh Israeli divorce laws. Israel’s official submission for best foreign language Oscar consideration was nominated for a Golden Globe in that category just last week.
- “Mr. Kaplan,” Uruguay’s submission for Oscar consideration, a dramedy about a Holocaust survivor living in that South American country who suspects a German immigrant cafe owner of being a Nazi war criminal in hiding.
- Two “Gen-Y” events: a showing of the anti-Semitic hate-crime docudrama “24 Days” at Regal Cinemas Atlantic Station Stadium 18 (preceded by a cocktail gathering at Strip); and an Art Party celebrating Jewish comedians at Mammal Gallery.
- “Belle and Sebastien,” a family-friendly French drama about a boy who befriends a fluffy stray dog and — in this adaptation of the 1960s novel — together lead members of the French Resistance to safety through the French Alps even as Nazis track them.
- “Deli Man,” a documentary that crosses the U.S. in search of the most authentic corned beef, blintzes and other Jewish food, spiced by the stories behind the mouthwatering dishes. The General Muir will offer a pre-show deli spread before two screenings.
- “The Physician,” starring Ben Kingsley as a renowned doctor who teaches a Christian orphan who travels from medieval England to Islamic Persia disguised as a Jew so that he can learn the mysteries of healing.
- Classic film showings: “The Shop on Main Street” (50th anniversary), “Hester Street” (40th) and Barry Levinson’s “Avalon” (25th).
- “Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem,” the closing night feature, a documentary about the 90-year-old “Fiddler on the Roof” star that blends his musical performance with details of his rich life story.
The 2015 AJFF has added a recently opened showplace, Regal Cinemas Avalon 12 in Alpharetta, to its regular list of venues scattered across Midtown and the northern metro area.
For the first time, the AJFF is leaving open slots on its schedule, on Feb. 18 and 19, for encore screenings of films where four or five showings were not enough to satisfy demand.
Atlanta Jewish Film Festival
Jan. 28-Feb. 19 at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre (opening night only), Regal Cinemas Avalon 12, Georgia Theatre Company Merchants Walk, Lefont Sandy Springs, United Artists Tara Cinemas 4, Regal Cinemas Atlantic Station Stadium 18 and Woodruff Arts Center’s Rich Auditorium (closing night only). Regular showings: $13, with discounts for seniors, students, children and matinees. General admission tickets for opening night: $18 (or $150-$300 including food and drink gala). Gen-Y events, “Deli Man” tasting/screening and closing night (includes dessert reception): $18. Tickets on sale Jan. 11 at www.ajff.org.