The slick lobby of the Atlanta History Center welcomed sponsors, partners, staff and glitterati Jan. 9 to preview the 2019 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, themed “See the World on Film.” The festival opens Feb. 6 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre featuring “Shoelaces,” and closes Feb. 26 with “Chewdaism: A Taste of Jewish Montreal.”
“There is a great lineup this year, full of diversity, documentaries, and fiction spanning many countries,” Matthew Bernstein, chair of Emory University’s Film and Media Studies department, said during the pre-function hour of the AJFF Insider Preview Party. “Also, we have an especially impressive group of speakers. This year I am keen on “The Tale” and “To Dust” (which is a little offbeat), among others.”
Caterer Sandra Bank was on hand with Added Touch’s zesty buffet of foods from around the world. Then a short walk into the Grand Overlook ballroom. There, Kenny Blank, executive director of the AJFF, and Max Leventhal, AJFF board president, affably welcomed the crowd.
Jason Evans co-chaired the film evaluation committee with Hazel Gold, which was quite a task. The committee members watched 703 movies, and after 21,000 reviews, only 73 made the final cut. Some folks had to watch some “really bad movies,” Blank said. “We have three world premieres and two U.S. premiers this year.”
Leventhal acknowledged Sandy Springs City Councilman Andy Bauman, and Mayor Rusty Paul for building the City Springs performing arts center, where the festival will be held, “with our films in mind.” Later in the evening, Paul took the floor and received rousing applause by offering free parking at the City Springs venue for the AJFF audience.
Evans conducted stageside interviews. Some of the most special ones were with his mother and author Gail Evans, Joe Alterman, director of the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival, and Victoria Stilwell, an Animal Planet celebrity. Stilwell spoke about the making of a film that The Epstein School is sponsoring, entitled “Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog,” where a dog is separated from his Jewish family and trained by Nazis for terrorizing prisoners.
Alterman, whose trio had just performed a cool set, was excited about the movie, “It Must Schwing! The Blue Note Story,” a documentary about the eponymous jazz record label. “Jazz without Blue Note is like Torah without Moses.”
As for this humble reporter, my list begins with:
“Holy Lands,” starring James Caan as a retired American cardiologist abandoning life in New York City for Nazareth and tending a pig farm.
“Carl Laemmle,” a documentary about the German-born Hollywood mogul who founded Universal Pictures.
“King Bibi: The Life and Performances of Benjamin Netanyahu,” showing outtakes of him as a young politician mastering his media savvy public appeal.
“The Last Resort,” a documentary about paradise rediscovered through the bygone era of Miami Beach during the ‘60s and ‘70s.
And that’s just scratching the surface. Find the best location and times for you and book early! Tickets go on sale Jan. 28.
For more information, AJFF.org.