BY RON FEINBERG / Web Editor //

I don’t have a clue what I’ll be doing next week, but have a pretty good idea how I’ll be spending much of February. The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival (AJFF), one of the premiere flick fests in the country, has expanded once again and will soon be offering dozens of movies at venues across Metro Atlanta.

The 13th-annual edition of the fest, produced by the American Jewish Committee of Atlanta, runs from Jan. 30 through Feb. 20 and will include some 70 films screened at five locations. The event remains Atlanta’s largest film festival and the nation’s second-largest Jewish film festival.

AJFF booklets were mailed out late in December, and my wife and I have already made our initial selections. These days, I’m hunkered down in front of my computer, ready to purchase tickets when they go on sale next week (Thurs., Jan 3).

A word of warning: sales are brisk and sellouts are common.

Ready For a Marathon

Wendy and I managed to rip apart our calendars and rethink our daily schedules so that we could attend a dozen or so films this time around. There are comedies and dramas, documentaries and shorts; they all explore the human condition and, in some fashion, there’s always a Jewish twist or connection.

On one sure-to-be memorable Sunday in early February, Wendy and I will be spending the day at our local multiplex (fortunately, it was added as one of the festival venues two years ago). Our marathon effort will include the feature film “Tiger Eyes” and two documentaries, “Portrait of Wally” and “Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy.”

That’s close to a five-hour commitment; but hey, who’s counting!

The first documentary focuses on a scandalous lawsuit over a Nazi-plundered painting, while the second is a celebration of the unique role of Jewish composers and lyricists at the heart of the Great White Way.

The Jewish factor of the feature film is a bit harder to uncover. It’s the first of best-selling author Judy Blume’s classic books to be translated to the big screen and centers around a teenager grappling with the sudden, violent loss of her dad.

It turns out the protagonist’s father is Jewish – and that, it appears, is all the yiddishkeit necessary to land the film in this year’s program.

The bottom line, and one of the reasons the festival is a not-to-be-missed happening each winter, is that “Tiger Eyes” – and other such movies – is a piece of splendid, innovative filmmaking. The three-week schedule is always a refreshing and nice change from Hollywood spectaculars filled with special effects and little else.

Pulling Us Together

At one end of the artistic spectrum, the festival is all about entertainment and education, offering movies focusing on Jewish life, culture and history.

At least, that’s the party line, pulled from the festival’s official website. But slide along this philosophical plane, and I think there’s something of import resting at the other end of the spectrum.

There are 120,000 Jews in the metro area, and over the course of the festival, thousands will attend at least one show. Last year, the fest drew a whopping 30,000 moviegoers, and expectations are high that new records will be set this season.

No other Jewish event – religious, communal or cultural – comes close to attracting such large numbers in Atlanta. The films, of course, are the draw; the icing on the cake is bumping into friends and family – the ganze mispucha.

Most importantly, the wailing about our loss of Jewish identity and the real concerns of assimilation fade away quietly for at least a few weeks.

So we can all collectively sit back and relax in a darkened theater; laugh a little, cry a little, nosh on a bit of popcorn and lose ourselves in what’s being offered on the big screen. And, for an hour or two, return home happily to our Jewish community.