Last month at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, we basked in the smoky glow of the world premiere of “No Pork on the Fork,” the short film that documents how we produce the annual Atlanta Kosher BBQ Festival. It’s the largest event of its kind in the Southeast, and plans are well underway for our eighth annual AKBF Oct. 18. Fittingly, our story played to a full house Feb. 23 at the 20th annual AJFF, arguably the largest event of its kind in the United States.
Just as every successful BBQ creation has its own special recipe, so does the film we shared. And, every great recipe has its own special story. Ours goes back some 15 years, when I took my mom, Gladys Pollack, of blessed memory, to her acting debut. She had called me from The Jewish Tower and asked me to take her to Goldbergs deli on Roswell Road so she can be in a movie. She told me that there was a new Jewish film festival in Atlanta and some guy named Kenny Blank was doing a trailer advertising it. I had no idea what she was talking about, but these are the things you do for your mom.
When we got there, the pickle jars and bagels on the deli counter had been replaced with reels of film, and the crew was there to begin filming. I met Kenny, who explained the concept: Customers would go to the counter and order a movie
from Sid, the counterman. Sid would check with the ladies in the back to see what films they have.
My mom was one of those ladies in the back. The result was a very cute trailer that both promoted the fifth AJFF and captured the essence of my mom and her view of life. She delivered her famous line: “I made it myself!” Here is a link to the trailer https://youtu.be/RAMEs9OzPQI.
But wait, there’s more. My mom then wrote a letter to her late mom, titled, “Ma, guess what I got to do!” Here is part of her letter that appeared in the 2005 winter edition of the Meyer Balser Center for Healthy Living newspaper.
“Ma, you never told me that when I would be in my eighties, I would be an actress. When I was told that they liked my personality so much that they wrote a part for me in the trailer promoting the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, I felt that I had won the lottery. The whole movie making atmosphere gave me a glow that let me know I was still alive and not ready to smell the roses.”
Fast forward to 2019.
When the Hebrew Order of David took over the Atlanta Kosher BBQ Festival from the B’nai Torah Brotherhood team of Matt Dickson, Brian Mailman and Keith Marks, I knew we had something special to share with a larger community. I began to recognize what it takes to run the festival: finding excellent talent for the planning team; coordinating with sponsors, teams and entertainers; working with the city of Sandy Springs and its police and fire departments; and taking care of countless other details. It became obvious that this needed to be captured on film.
Now we needed to find a filmmaker. While volunteering at the 19th AJFF, I worked the information booth at City Springs with Devra and Walter Kolesky. I casually mentioned the Atlanta Kosher BBQ Festival and said it would be really cool to do a film about it and have it appear in the AJFF. They suggested that I reach out to the acclaimed director Adam Hirsch. They said he has had a few films show at the AJFF and may be interested in helping make this dream come true.
Adam loved the idea. He assembled an extremely talented crew led by up-and-coming director-editor extraordinaire Jacob Ross. Adam and Jacob recognized that the film had to show how the AKBF marinated greater Atlanta’s love of BBQ while maintaining our Jewish heritage through kashrut.
We walked through the sequence of events and identified key phases of the BBQ festival that needed to be filmed: prep night at Congregation B’nai Torah, Saturday night set up, and cooking through the night and festival day. We featured our 2017 grand champion trophy, then on display at the Atlanta History Center’s exhibition “Barbecue Nation,” along with narratives with Don Rooney, exhibition curator, and Jim Auchmutey, author of “Smoke Lore.” We featured Keith Marks prepping ribs on Saturday night for Sunday’s festival attendees. And thus, “No Pork on the Fork” was born.
It premiered as part of the AJFF to a sellout crowd, and it will be making the rounds to community events in Atlanta and any place where good BBQ is savored.
While she is not around to take me to the shoot, I’m sure my mom is looking down, sharing my joy and smelling my BBQ smoke. And now, I can say: “Ma, guess what I got to do, too!” She gave me the recipe, but I made it myself!
Jody Pollack is executive director of the Hebrew Order of David and its annual Atlanta Kosher BBQ Festival.