Having celebrated a decade of growth with its biggest edition earlier this year, with more than 20,000 attending, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival will significantly expand in 2011.
Planned for Feb. 8-27, the festival will jump from 12 to 20 days and present 66 films and 99 screenings at six theaters compared to 51 films and 76 screenings at three theaters this year, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.
But the growth is more than in the just volume of movies, which will be drawn from 19 countries. Though the 11th annual event will be spread out across the metro area, organizers are attempting to enhance the film festival feeling.
- The opening night gala, which routinely had sold out early at Regal Cinemas Atlantic Station 16, will be staged at the 4,600-seat Fox Theatre, where the kick-off film will be Peter Miller's documentary "Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story." Adding some luster, there will be a pre-film VIP reception in the Egyptian Ballroom with food and wine from some top Atlanta chefs.
- The Young Professionals Night on Feb. 9 will also move from Atlantic Station to the larger Buckhead Theatre, for a showing of the documentary "The 'Socalled' Movie." It's about Montreal musician Josh Dolgin (aka Socalled), who mashes Klezmer with jazz and hip-hop. A party will precede the screening and a Socalled concert will follow.
- The festival also is adding hospitality lounges for pre- and post-screening socializing and networking. Audiences at Regal Cinemas Atlantic Station 16 can get their "nosh on," as the AJFF program describes it, at Strip. Lefont Sandy Springs attendees will have a reserved space at Three Sheets. Guests at Regal's Medlock Crossing Stadium 18 in Johns Creek can hit Pastas and Tapas. And visitors to a new festival venue, Georgia Theatre Company's Merchants Walk 12 in Marietta, can zip to Marlow's Tavern.
- The closing night celebration Feb. 27 at Strip also will be an Oscars viewing party.
"Expansion allows us to do more things programmatically, take some risks artistically, showing different things for different tastes," AJFF executive director Kenny Blank said in an exclusive AJC interview.
- As in past years, Israeli titles make up roughly a third of the schedule, including "The Human Resources Manager," the country's best foreign language film Oscar entry. Eran Riklis' film is a narrative of social dislocation, as an HR manager escorts the body of a suicide-bomb victim back to her family in remote Eastern Europe. Another Israeli film sure to generate conversation is "Precious Life," Shlomi Eldar's documentary a about Palestinian infant being treated for rare immune disorder by Israeli doctors.
- There is a strong grouping of musical films, including "Gainsbourg," a documentary on the late French pop music star Serge Gainsbourg. Another is "100 Voices: A Journey Home," chronicling a cluster of cantors as they return to Poland, the birthplace of songful Jewish prayer.
- The festival is adding a classics component, screening the restored Yiddish film "Yiddle with His Fiddle" (starring silent era standout Molly Picon) on its 75th anniversary, the Olympics-set "Chariots of Fire" on its 30th and the animated "An American Tail" on its 25th.
- Three romantic comedies will show on Valentine's Day, including "The Names of Love," a French film in which a middle-aged Jewish scientist falls for a sexy, young Algerian leftist.
Sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, with the mission of building bridges across cultural divides, the AJFF is Atlanta's largest film festival and the second-largest Jewish film fest in the U. S., after the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.
Tickets will go on sale Tuesday at www.ajff.org. Information: 404-806-9913.
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Credit: Jason Getz/AJC