Highlights of Atlanta Film Festival’s opening weekend

Event preview

Atlanta Film Festival. Friday through March 24. Most screenings at Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. N.E., Atlanta, and 7 Stages, 1105 Euclid Ave. N.E., Atlanta. Opening and closing night screenings and parties, $30 each. General screenings, $10. 404-352-4225, www.atlantafilmfestival.com.

Opening Friday, the Atlanta Film Festival will present 201 narrative and documentary features, shorts and music videos over 10 days. Here’s a quick look at some of the 37th edition’s opening weekend highlights:

  • The "This Is Atlanta Shorts Block" (5 p.m. Friday, Plaza) features six locally made shorts running from five to 31 minutes and dealing with subjects ranging from zombies to hip-hop.
  • "Mud," an Arkansas-filmed drama starring Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon, is the fest's opening night feature (7 p.m. Friday, Plaza; only rush-line tickets available). Written and directed by Jeff Nichols, the Mark Twain-inspired drama is about teens who help a fugitive (McConaughey) evade bounty hunters. Co-star Ray McKinnon will appear.
  • The "Saturday Morning Cartoons Shorts Block" (11 a.m. Saturday, 7 Stages) unspools six toons. Among them is "The Gruffalo's Child," based on the Julia Donaldson children's book about a little mouse who goes off on a misadventure in the woods. (Kids under 12 admitted free when accompanied by an adult.)

  • "Survive and Advance" (1:45 p.m. Saturday, Plaza), an ESPN 30 for 30 film, documents one of the biggest underdog basketball teams of all time, the 1983 North Carolina State Wolfpack, coached by Jim Valvano.
  • "Rectify" (6:45 p.m. Saturday, Plaza), a Georgia-shot project created and written by Ray McKinnon, is the first original series produced for the Sundance Channel. It's being given a preview screening ahead of its April 22 cable premiere. McKinnon will appear along with cast members.
  • In "Good Ol' Freda" (9:15 p.m. Saturday, Druid Hills Baptist Church), Freda Kelly, a shy Liverpudlian teenager who became a loyal fan club secretary for the Beatles, tells her story five decades later. The documentary is by former Atlantan Ryan White.
  • The Whitest Kids U Know (9:30 p.m. Saturday, Plaza), the sketch comedy group from cable's IFC channel, present a live performance (with film clips).
  • Regional food is the star of "Pride & Joy" (11:45 a.m. Sunday, Plaza), Southern Foodways Alliance filmmaker Joe York's travelogue.
  • "The Great Chicken Wing Hunt," a lighthearted documentary about a band of misfits who set out to find the world's best Buffalo wings, will receive its world premiere (2 p.m. Sunday, Plaza). Afterward, ticket-holders can bring their hunger pangs to a free wing party featuring spicy samples from Atlanta restaurants, 4-7 p.m. at Highland Ballroom.
  • The feature debut from Atlanta writer-director T. Jara Morgan, "A Band of Rogues" (4 p.m. Sunday, Plaza), tells the story of four American musicians stuck in Argentina after being arrested for drug possession.
  • Shot in the metro suburbs, Atlanta filmmaker Mike Brune's "Congratulations" (8:45 p.m. Sunday, Plaza) is a comedic, oddball mystery about what happens after an 8-year-old goes missing.