A feature about children fleeing the Nazis and a documentary about brothers born and separated in the postwar chaos of a displaced-persons camp led the winners of the first jury prizes awarded by the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival.
The chair of the jury, movie producer Arik Sokol, announced the winners of the six prizes before the screening of “The Women’s Balcony” at the festival’s closing night at the Woodruff Arts Center’s Symphony Hall.
The jury named “Fanny’s Journey” the best narrative out of the six films in competition for the award. The French film, directed by Lola Doillon and based on an autobiographical novel by Fanny Ben-Ami, tells the story of a group of children trying to escape through the countryside to Switzerland during World War II. It topped “Beyond the Mountains and the Hills,” “Paradise,” “Past Life,” “Riphagen: The Untouchable” and “Zacma: Blindness.”
While the narrative prize went to the most uplifting of the films in competition, the same can’t be said about the winner for the documentary prize, “Aida’s Secrets,” in which brothers raised in Canada and Israel without knowing the other existed find each other and piece together their mother’s past. Directed by Alon and Shaul Schwarz, the nephews of one of the featured brothers, “Aida’s Secrets” beat “Big Sonia,” “Keep Quiet,” “Mother With a Gun,” “On the Map” and “The Settlers.”
Director Dori Berinstein’s “The Last Blintz,” a half-hour documentary about the closing of Broadway’s Cafe Edison, was named the best short over eight other competitors, including Oscar nominee “Joe’s Violin.”
The Emerging Filmmakers prize, given to a director for showing great talent early in his or her career, went to Israeli Eran Kolirin for the family drama “Beyond the Mountains and Hills.”
“The 90 Minute War,” Eyal Halfon’s satire about settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a soccer match, won the Building Bridges award, presented to a film that exemplifies the festival’s mission.
Drawing the loudest spontaneous applause of the night was the announcement that “The Freedom to Marry” won the Human Rights prize. Eddie Rosenstein’s documentary follows lawyer Evan Wolfson in his successful legal battle for same-sex marriage.
In the separate audience awards, based on the ballots submitted after each screening and announced Thursday, “Fanny’s Journey” again was triumphant among narrative features, while “The Freedom to Marry” won among documentary features. For the shorts, the AJFF audiences agreed with the Oscar voters and gave the nod to “Joe’s Violin.”
The films selected for a day of encore presentations Sunday, March 5, will be announced soon.