Every year the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival presents movies about Jewish-American life, the cinema of Israel and the legacy of the Holocaust. But this year’s festival, which takes place at multiple venues Feb. 6-26, features several films that explore homosexuality and gender issues.
“We (saw) a tremendous number of films … that explored issues of the LGTBQ community, whether it be the process of discovering one’s own sexuality or the difficult task of gaining acceptance from friends and family,” says Jason Evans, co-chair of the selection committee, which evaluated 703 films to program this year’s festival. Among those selected for inclusion is “Family in Transition,” a documentary about an Israeli father of four who announces a wish to live as a woman.
“Tangentially related to that,” says Evans, “we (saw) a good number of films about sexual harassment and women in the workplace.” One that made the cut is “Working Woman,” an Israeli workplace drama for the #MeToo era.
Over the course of three weeks, the 19th annual Atlanta Jewish Film Festival will show 76 narrative and documentary shorts and feature films representing 24 countries, says Evans. Of those, three are world premieres, six are North American premieres and two are U.S. premieres.
Special guests in attendance include director Lisa Dapolita, whose documentary “Love, Gilda” profiles “Saturday Night Live” star Gilda Radner, her battles with breast cancer and her marriage to Gene Wilder.
The program includes several anniversary screenings, including the 1979 comedy “The Frisco Kid,” starring Wilder as a rabbi travelling the Wild West with a gruff bank robber played by Harrison Ford.
Programming highlights include:
“Shoelaces.” Actor Doval’e Glickman won Israel’s equivalent to a Best Actor Oscar for his role as a middle-aged mechanic in Jerusalem who, after the death of his ex-wife, must reconnect with his grown, special-needs son (Nevo Kimchi). This sentimental drama follows in the footsteps of similarly themed films such as “Rain Man,” but goes in some intriguing directions involving Israel’s health care system and foster care community. Kimchi will attend the festival’s opening night screening. 7:30 p.m., Feb. 6, Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
“93Queen.” In Paula Eiselt’s documentary, a group of women in Brooklyn’s orthodox community of Borough Park attempt to form an all-female ambulance service called Ezras Nashim as an alternative to the community’s all-male establishment. Don’t look for the kind of emergency medicine set pieces you’d find on “ER,” but do look for a compelling cast of characters. Ezras Nashim director Rachel Freier emerges as particularly driven and complex as she faces the hostility of Hasidic traditionalists and internet trolls while balancing the demands of her family, faith and career ambitions. 1:25 p.m., Feb. 8, Atlantic Station; 11 a.m., Feb. 17, UA Tara Cinemas; 4:35 p.m., Feb. 17; Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center; 3:45 p.m., Feb. 18, Regal Perimeter Pointe.
“The Golem.” In 17th century Europe, a childless, self-educated wife (Hani Furstenberg) uses forbidden knowledge to create an avenging golem to defend her home shtetl from invaders. This grisly but thoughtful, English-language horror film from Israeli filmmaking brothers Doron and Yoav Paz features makeup effects and moody cinematography evocative of Hammer Studios. The script takes ideas involving childbirth, motherhood and feminism, and connects them to such archetypal monsters as the golem and Frankenstein. 9 p.m., Feb. 9, Regal Atlantic Station; 11:20 a.m., Feb. 15, UA Tara Cinemas; 8:35 p.m., Feb. 23, Regal Perimeter Pointe.
“Enemies, A Love Story.” The festival presents a 30th anniversary screening of this acclaimed dramedy from multiple Oscar nominee Paul Mazursky. Based on a novel by Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer and set in post-war New York City, the film depicts a Jewish refugee (Ron Silver) juggling his relationships with his dutiful second wife (Margaret Sophie Stein), his passionate mistress (Lena Olin) and his long-lost first wife (Anjelica Huston), whom he believed died in the Holocaust. Lena Olin, an Oscar nominee for best supporting actress for the role, will attend the screenings. 7 p.m., Feb. 14, Regal Perimeter Pointe; 1:50 p.m., Feb. 15, UA Tara Cinemas.
“Leona.” A young muralist (Naian González Norvind) from a devout Jewish community in Mexico City faces ostracizing from her family when she strikes up a relationship with a gentile (Christian Vazquez). Norvind gives a sensitive portrayal as the heroine Ariela, who struggles to reconcile her desire for personal freedom with the constrictions of her loved ones. Writer/director Isaac Cherem avoids easy answers in this smart, occasionally steamy romantic drama. The Feb. 16 screening is the festival’s Young Professionals Night. 8 p.m., Feb. 16, Woodruff Arts Cinema; 1:35 p.m., Feb. 17, UA Tara Cinemas; 8:10 p.m., Feb. 17, Regal Perimeter Pointe; 1 p.m., Feb. 18, Regal Perimeter Pointe.
“Chewdaism: A Taste of Jewish Montreal.” Eli Batalion and Jamie Elman, creators of the Yiddish-language comedy web series “Yid-Life Crisis,” return to their native Montreal for a tour of the city’s most famous Jewish restaurants and food traditions. At about an hour, it feels less like a documentary film and more like an episode of a light-hearted food tourism TV series. Nevertheless, the filmmakers convey genuine enthusiasm and nostalgia as they nosh across Montreal’s streets and eateries. Batalion, Elman and “Atlanta Eats” cohost Steak Shapiro attend the 7 p.m. closing night show, which will be followed by a post-screening food tasting. 2:25 and 7 p.m., Feb. 26, Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center
Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. Feb. 6-26. $13-$15; $36 opening and closing nights. Tickets go on sale Jan. 28. Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta. Regal Atlantic Station, 261 19th St. NW, Atlanta. UA Tara Cinemas 4, 2345 Cheshire Bridge Road, Atlanta. Regal Perimeter Pointe 10, 1155 Mount Vernon Highway, Atlanta. 866-214-2072, www.ajff.org.