The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival brings cinema from around the world to Atlanta, but it’s not often a fixture of the Atlanta Jewish community takes center stage. At the 20th annual film festival, however, “No Pork on the Fork” features the Atlanta Kosher BBQ Festival and the conflux of Jewish and Southern cuisines.
The film was directed by Adam Hirsch and Jacob Ross. Initially, Hirsch was approached by Jody Pollack, the event’s executive director, about potentially telling the festival’s story.
“When we were first asked to provide an artifact to the Atlanta History Center’s ‘Barbecue Nation’ exhibit, I realized we had something really special and we needed to spread the word,” Pollack said. “Adam had done a few films for the [film] festival before, … and he got excited about the idea.”
From there, Hirsch contacted Ross and the two pulled together a crew to make the film a reality.
“I’d been wanting to work with Jacob for quite some time now,” Hirsch said. “I told him we had a story about the festival, but really about the Southern barbecue experience and how it comes together with Southern Jewish culture.”
While the film’s focus is unquestionably on the festival itself, it also dives into the roots of barbecue and how Jewish and other global cultures around the world have influenced it. It includes interviews from other Atlanta-area pitmasters and chefs, including Todd Ginsberg, who explains that Jewish barbecue has a surprisingly long history, whether that’s pastrami or Montreal-style smoked meats.
“There are a lot of moving parts to the barbecue festival, but we also realized we needed to expand the scope to speak to the greater Atlanta Jewish community and the barbecue community,” Pollack said. “It really gave it a greater context than just an isolated Jewish event.”
The film also follows teams at 2019’s festival as they prepare for the event, ultimately serve guests and prepare for judging, all while under the strict supervision of the Atlanta Kosher Commission.
Hirsch, who had participated in the barbecue festival prior to working on the film, explained that what surprised him the most was the participation of those even outside the Jewish community.
“The first responders, the Sandy Springs police and fire departments, came out to support the Jewish community,” he said. “Their involvement really showed that they believe the Jewish community is a strong and vital part of not just Sandy Springs, but the broader city of Atlanta.”
In fact, at one point the film features Sandy Springs firefighters discussing the festival. One notes that he’d never had an understanding of kosher rules before but was embracing the challenge, of course while also trash-talking their friendly rivals at the police department.
Ross noted that with the barbecue festival taking place in September and the deadline for AJFF submissions not long after, there was a challenge in getting the film ready in time for screening.
“Including the prep, and the night before, I would say it was probably somewhere around 30 or 40 hours of footage,” he said. “I think the original cut of the film was around 45 minutes, and that’s way too long for a short film, … So we made sure it was 20 minutes and maybe we’ll do a director’s cut later on.”
The film will be screened on Feb. 23 at Regal Perimeter Point as part of Shorts Program 3, and Hirsch explains that he looks forward to seeing the audience reaction.
“These films can tell some amazing stories, but can also sometimes be very difficult to watch, whether they be about the Holocaust or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said. “I think it’ll be really nice to have our film shown with three very serious films and just give the audience a chance to sit back and laugh and see Atlanta on display on the big screen.”