International Atlanta: The world at your doorstep

Atlanta provides a wealth of events to share culture, food and understanding.

Who doesn’t want to see the world? Logistically, it’s difficult. A round-the-world cruise is expensive, to say the least. Doing it piecemeal (Greece in 2024?) takes time. You could “visit” Epcot’s 11 countries at Walt Disney World, but (don’t tell the kids) it’s not real.

What’s a traveler to do? How about stepping outside your front door?

Atlanta, which famously dubbed itself the “Next Great International City,” really has become just that. Every week there are international festivals, cultural performances, social gatherings, lectures, lessons and food tastings that will excite your wanderlust, widen your horizons, introduce you to new forms of expression — and maybe put an extra pound or two on you.

Certainly COVID-19 has forced many, especially the festivals, to cancel for a year or two, or drastically downsize, but that doesn’t matter. A community’s culture and heritage are celebrated with the same joie de vivre as always. Whether it’s the upcoming JapanFest, the Cinema Italy Atlanta film festival, the various Oktoberfests or even the Atlanta Chinese Dance Company that on Oct. 2 and 3 will debut an original collaboration with hip hop choreographer AJ Paug, there is always something going on that allows us to celebrate our heritage or learn about those of our neighbors.

Credit: C.K.Lau

Credit: C.K.Lau

“At the core, our mission is to introduce people to a different perspective that is not just their own, which results in tolerance and listening and learning from each other. We want to see how our values connect,” says Oliver Gorf, executive director of Goethe-Zentrum Atlanta, which builds ties between German-speaking people and the Southeast by hosting a variety of events and classes. On the calendar for September is a German Heritage Tour at Oakland Cemetery and a seminar on climate crisis and contemporary culture.

Keith Franklin, artistic director of the New African Grove Theater Co., also stresses the importance of different perspectives, including the African American one. Pre-COVID it averaged about four productions a year, including original works. “Some of our plays are very specifically race conscious; others are simply stories, which are universal. The struggles and conflict are the same but we are a Eurocentric country and that became the standard; everything else is ethnic,” he says. “It’s all ethnic; it’s whose ethnicity are you talking about.”

The productions attract a mature audience but when young people do attend they are unexpectedly affected. “We speak a truth they recognize — and they keep coming back,” he says.

Showcasing the Chinese culture for a mainstream audience is one of the goals of the Atlanta Chinese Dance Co., which was founded in 1991 by Hwee-Eng Y. Lee, but another one is to connect local Chinese residents to their heritage. Some of the dancers are native, others Chinese-American. Many are born in China and adopted in the U.S. “There is a desire to stay in touch with your culture, and for those who were adopted, it may be the only way, or one of the few ways, that they can stay connected,” says co-director Kerry Lee.

Venezuelan flamenco dancer and choreographer Marianela “Malita” Belloso, whose company Caló Gitano Theatre Co. puts on monthly performances at her Kirkwood dance studio as well as at festivals, believes Atlantans are interested in the area’s culture offerings. However, limited awareness is an issue. “If more people knew about us, they would love us. And, when they come, for whatever reason, they come back.”

Whether you want to attend a lecture on the challenges of clean water in developing nations or delight in the variety of German beer at a bierfest, there is something for anyone wanting to explore the metro area’s international offerings. Here’s a sample of what the city offers.

Festivals

One of the largest Japanese festivals in the country, JapanFest offers an exciting introduction to everything Japanese including goods, an Anime Village & Cosplay contest, food, outdoor beer garden, taiko drum concerts, dance performances, kids activities, game booths, martial arts performances and Sake vendors. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 8; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 19. $15 day of event. Gas South Convention Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth, japanfest.org.

Pre-COVID-19, The Atlanta Greek Festival was a energetic celebration of everything Greek, but this year, the festival only has a drive-through serving food. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sept. 24-25; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sept. 26. Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 2500 Clairmont Road, Atlanta. 404-633-5870, atlantagreekfestival.org.

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

The Stone Mountain Highland Games brings the best of Scotland with athletic events, dancing, piping and drumming and a parade of tartans. Oct. 16-17. Various prices. Stone Mountain Park, 1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd., Stone Mountain. smhg.org.

Atlanta British Car Faire celebrates more than 300 British automobiles and motorcycles. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sept. 11. Free. Historic Downtown Norcross. atlantabritishcarfayre.com.

You don’t have to like beer (although it helps) to enjoy the various beirfests and Oktoberfests that will take place throughout the metro area in October and early November. Oktoberfest Atlanta, which usually takes place in Old Fourth Ward Park, has been canceled this year with plans to return in 2022, but the German Bierfest is still on, for now, at Woodruff Park on Nov. 6 (facebook.com/GermanBierfestAtlanta).

ExploreTime to pick your Oktoberfest brews

Theater and Dance

Théâtre du Rêve, a professional theater company, has brought the French language and Francophone culture to Atlanta for the past 25 years at 7 Stages Theatre. The plays are in French with English projected on a screen. 1105 Euclid Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-875-3829, theatredureve.com.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Atlanta Chinese Dance Co. tells the stories of Chinese history and culture through a mix of folk, classical and contemporary dance. The 80-plus company, which performs several full productions, is one of the nation’s few Chinese companies to receive funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. 770-449-9953, atlantachinesedance.org.

The Uhuru Dancers is a Clarkston-based dance company and school devoted to preserving and showing the creative essence of West Africa through music, song and dance. Founded in 1989 by Toni Young, Shaheedah Enahora, Tina Scoope, and Celeste Anthony, it is the oldest professional African dance company in the metro area. Clarkston Community Center, 3701 College Ave., Clarkston. 888-249-8311, uhurudancers.com.

The Caló Theatre Co.,and Caló Gitano Theatre Co. were founded by Venezuelan flamenco dancer and choreographer Marianela “Malita” Belloso. Caló Theatre Co., 1963 Hosea L. Williams Drive, Atlanta. 404-966-1347, calogitano.com.

The New African Grove Theatre Company encourages African American participation in theatre and has produced works by well-known and emerging playwrights. 4355 Cobb Parkway, Atlanta. 404-579-586. newafricangrove.com.

Credit: Pkale Robinson Photography

Credit: Pkale Robinson Photography

Since 1990, the Manga African Dance Co. preserves and teaches about indigenous African culture through dance, education and performance. The company was founded by Ramatu Afegbua-Sabbatt, a native of Idah in Kogi State, Nigeria. 1083 Austin Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-462-5723, mangadance.org.

Dhoop Chaoon is a Hindu theater group started in 2007 by Sandy Saxena Bhagat. The company, which also gives Hindi lessons, has about 50 permanent members and usually puts on productions in the spring. 3050 Enfield Lane, Duluth. 404-585-7247, dhoopchaoon.wixsite.com.

There are several companies that teach Irish dancing and perform locally including Atlanta Irish Dance (770-500-0301, burkeconnolly.com) and Drake School of Irish Dance Atlanta (404-524-6986, drakedance.com).

Credit: Hakim K.Wilson of Photo Brother's Photography (404) 590-3686

Credit: Hakim K.Wilson of Photo Brother's Photography (404) 590-3686

Film Festivals

The Georgia Latino International Film Festival showcases the films and creative talents of the Latino community. Sept. 30-Oct. 3. $15-$200. 5945 Jimmy Carter Blvd., Norcross. 770-765-3478, georgialatinofilmfestival.org.

The Atlanta Asian Film Festival showcases films and documentaries by emerging filmmakers featuring the Asian Pacific culture. Oct. 2-3. $8. Georgia Gwinnett College, Perimeter College, Building Cisco Auditorium, Lawrenceville. atlaff.org.

After a COVID-19-necessitated break, Cinema Italy Atlanta is back on. Nov. 4-7. $13. Plaza Theater, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta. 470-410-1939, cinemaitaly.com/atlanta.com.

African Film Festival Atlanta magnifies and celebrate the visions, voices, lives and stories of people from Africa and the African Diaspora. The festival will be virtual this year and features films from and about Nigeria and Nigerians. Nov. 19-21. africanfilmfestatl.com.

The Atlanta Jewish Film festival explores the Jewish experience, including culture and history, life in Israel and the work of Jewish artists from around the world. The festival wrapped up its 2021 season with more than 39,000 moviegoers. Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. ajiff.org.