Don't miss these films at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival!
by Jay Blodgett
Jan. 10, 2008 (Atlanta) - Founded in 2000, the Atlanta
Jewish Film Festival (AJFF) has quickly grown in size and reputation,
with an estimated attendance in 2008 expected to top 12,000. The
festival runs January 16 - 27 and will be primarily based at the
Sandy Springs, with a mini-fest at the Regal Medlock Crossing
Stadium 18, and special events at the Regal Atlantic Station and
the Fox Sports Grill next door. It has an excellent website where
tickets can be purchased: www.ajff.org.
Due to the generosity of the AJFF and their press representatives
at GCI Group, I had access
to 35 programs and was able to screen 25 of the films. (The holidays
got in the way of finishing!) As the festival approaches, I'll be
posting "daily previews," three days in advance of the
screenings, with more detailed reactions to the individual films.
For now, briefly, here are the highlights of what was in that big,
box of screeners!
opening night feature is Helen Hunt's directorial debut, THEN
SHE FOUND ME. Frankly, I've never been a big Helen Hunt
fan; however, she gives a great performance here, though her direction
is satisfactory. Casting Bette Midler as her mother is inspired.
It is a really good choice for an opening night film -- commercial,
accessible, enjoyable and the opening night crowd should leave feeling
good and ready for the rest of the fest! It has encore screenings
throughout the fest.
the opposite end of the "comfortable/accessible" scale is THE
MEMORY THIEF, directed by Gil Kofman. Though it is fiction,
the performance by Mark Weber as a young man who becomes obsessed
with survivors of the holocaust is disturbingly real. I MUST see
this with an audience to see their reactions, as well as what should
be a very animated Q&A afterward! It screens on January 24th.
Speaking of great performances, Valerie Harper gives a brilliant
performance as Golda Meir in GOLDA'S
BALCONY, which is an adaption of William Gibson's one-woman
play (which Harper performed on Broadway). It is not necessarily
cinematic, however, it does capture a performer at her peak and
in the role of a lifetime. It also screens several times throughout
the middle of the festival, the programmers have actually pulled
together a brilliant triple-feature of films that are aimed at young
audiences. Sunday, January 20, begins with the documentary PRAYING
WITH LIOR, about a 13- year-old boy with Down's syndrome,
whose "uncanny spiritual connection has made him a savant in the
eyes of classmates and earned him a following among local synagogues."
It is followed by MAX
MINSKY AND ME, which is a sweet comedy from Germany
about a 13-year-old girl's dilemma between preparing for her Bat
Mitzvah or obsessing over a boyfriend. The day continues, and matures
some, with the documentary AS
SEEN THROUGH THESE EYES, which features the artistic
depictions of the holocaust by the survivors - when they were children
and now as adults. It features a wide range of expressions, from
art to theatre (i.e. the children's opera, BRUNDIBAR).
one might expect, there are quite a few documentaries. Unexpectedly,
though, my favorite by leaps and bounds, was MAKING
TROUBLE: THREE GENERATIONS OF FUNNY JEWISH WOMEN. The
film profiles Molly Picon, Fanny Brice, Sophie Tucker, Joan Rivers,
Gilda Radner, and Wendy Wassertsein. It is 'hosted' by Jackie Hoffman,
Corey Kahany, Jessica Kirson, and Judy Gold. It was informative
and really entertaining! LOVED it! It screens several times throughout
the fest; however, it is SELLING OUT!
the narrative features, my favorites out of the selections I saw
include the SOMBER, yet GORGEOUS MY
FATHER MY LORD and the delightful SIXTY
SIX, which is equally a visual treat in its production
design and recreation of 1966 London. They are both "family
oriented," with the former looking at the dark side of religion
and family relationships, and the latter being a humorous, if farcical
story of a boy preparing his Bar Mitzvah, scheduled on the day that
Great Britain played in the finals of the 1966 World Cup. Two totally
different emotional experiences, but equally satisfying. MY
FATHER... plays on Jan. 20, 21; SIXTY SIX
screens on the 23rd and 24th.
films which might interest special interests within the local community
IS PROUD TO PRESENT...," which documents the drama and
struggle of hosting the 2006 World Pride Celebration in Jerusalem,
where the city literally melts down in riots against the concept
of "gay pride" in an Orthodox capitol. And for regional interest,
there is the documentary, SO
LONG ARE YOU YOUNG, which profiles Samuel Ullman, who
was from Birmingham, AL, and the influence his poem (initially made
famous by General MacArthur, and then numerous state leaders since
then) has had on the world.
are a couple films that I was unable to appreciate in a 'screener'
situation (regardless of my home projector, which is nearly the
size of San Francisco's Opera Plaza Screening Room), that I look
forward to seeing a second time at the festival itself. They are
MY LOVE and DISENGAGEMENT
starring Juliette Binoche. Both of them are quite subtle and require
a focus, or at least a submission to, their pacing and language.
See you at the movies!
more fascinating reviews, see
"Life with Movies and Maxxxxx" by Jay Blodgett