• Brooke Sonenreich

Atlanta Jewish Film Festival Returns To The Big Screen In North Metro Mini-fest



The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival (AJFF) is excited to announce its return to the movie theater for the first time in 18 months with AJFF North, a mini-festival on Aug. 28-29, 2021, that will combine in-theater and virtual screenings. Made possible by the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta through its “Making Jewish Places” initiative, AJFF North brings the best in Jewish cinema directly to residents of Alpharetta, East Cobb, Johns Creek, Roswell and surrounding North Metro communities, though is open to all audiences.

Moviegoers can enjoy a diverse mix of dramas, documentary, family-friendly fare, a Hollywood classic comedy, and even short films in a series of screenings at the Aurora Cineplex in Roswell (5100 Commerce Pkwy, Roswell, GA 30076), as well as via streaming in the AJFF Virtual Cinema. Tickets are available for purchase on Aug. 4 and are $16/person for in-person screenings and $16/household for films presented in the Virtual Cinema.

In-person screenings at the Aurora Cineplex represent the festival’s first return to movie theaters since February 2020 and provides an opportunity for audiences to rediscover the joy of seeing films back on the big screen, as AJFF plans for a larger theatrical experience at next year’s 22nd edition of the annual festival in February 2022.

“We’re thrilled to be the official venue for AJFF North,” says Barbara Scoggins, operations manager of the Aurora Cineplex. “As the world starts going back to the movies, community events like this one provide us an opportunity to serve film lovers in the North Atlanta metro area and beyond.”

As AJFF continues to prioritize the safety of audiences and staff, organizers will follow COVID protocols in accordance with CDC and local guidelines, as well as theater partners. This will include measures to encourage all audiences to wear masks inside the theater venue, as well as social distancing during entry and exit from the theater.

“After nearly two years of planning with our partners at Jewish Federation and community volunteers, AJFF North is a milestone initiative that both welcomes audiences back to theaters while also serving fans in North Metro neighborhoods,” says AJFF Executive Director Kenny Blank. “AJFF has always taken care to listen to the needs of the community, and this mini-festival further provides an opportunity to understand how the moviegoing experience will evolve as we plan for next year’s annual festival and beyond.”

The full lineup with descriptions of the five feature films can be found below:

Aug. 28 at 8PM: Lansky

In this riveting biographical crime drama, Harvey Keitel gives a commanding, impeccable performance as an aging crime boss who enlists a young journalist to reveal the untold truth about his life. Now living in the quiet anonymity of 1980s Miami Beach, notorious gangster Meyer Lansky has retired from the financial underworld after being pursued for decades by the FBI. With time running out, Lansky—intimidating and magnetic—summons a talented but down-on-his-luck writer (Sam Worthington) to spin his dizzying tale, from impoverished young Russian Jewish immigrant to a ruthlessly resourceful force in the mob’s gambling empire. As Lansky recalls a colorful, though often brutal past filled with increasingly surprising twists, the journalist is caught in the middle of a game of cat and mouse, as the feds close in.

Aug. 29 at 11AM: Meaning of Hitler

Essential viewing in a time of rising anti-Semitism and historical revisionism, this probing, provocative interrogation of the Nazi dictator's enduring cultural impact shines a cleansing light on a mythology that spans a century. From the darkest chapters of European history to Charlottesville and beyond, this intellectual inquiry into society's fascination with Hitler and Nazism burns with present-day resonance. Taking inspiration from Sebastian Haffner’s eponymous 1978 German bestselling book, the search for answers traces Hitler’s movements and rise to power, buttressed by exceptional interviews with scholars and writers, including Emory Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt. Deconstructing and demystifying the cult status surrounding him, this artfully constructed meditation reveals the insidious legacy and weaponization of Hitler's virulent ideology, and why understanding history is more urgent than ever.

*This film is a brand-new release, not yet available in theaters or on streaming platforms.

Aug. 29 at 1:55PM: The Samuel Project

Emmy-winner Hal Linden stars in this heartwarming family drama about a high school senior who gets to know his grandfather, Samuel, a Holocaust survivor, for the first time. With dreams of becoming a professional artist, Eli (Ryan Ochoa from hit Nickelodeon sitcom iCarly) discovers that his grandpa (Linden) was heroically saved from Nazi capture in Germany. After some hesitation, Samuel agrees to tell his story that he hasn't shared for more than 75 years, for Eli’s school assignment. As the project takes shape with the help of a misfit musician friend, three generations of family finally connect with one another. This powerful narrative is about the universal struggle for both acceptance and opportunity, with profound relevance to today’s headlines.

Aug. 29 at 4:40PM: Keeping Up with the Steins

An all-star ensemble delivers big laughs in this intergenerational classic crowd-pleaser about a Hollywood agent who goes overboard planning his son’s outrageously lavish bar mitzvah party. Not to be outdone by his ex-partner and rival agent, Adam Fiedler (Jeremy Piven) is determined to stage the most stupendous baseball-themed bash at Dodger Stadium for his son. But all of this just spells more stress for 13-year-old Benjamin, who secretly dreads the looming rite of passage, while struggling with his shyness. Hatching a plan to sabotage his own upcoming rituals, the boy invites his estranged, hippie grandfather (Garry Marshall) in hopes of healing family rifts and figuring out what it really means to become a man. Jami Gertz, Daryl Hannah, Doris Roberts, Cheryl Hines and Larry Miller co-star. A 15th Anniversary screening.

*Not available in the virtual cinema.

Aug. 29 at 7:30PM: The Yankles

In this unabashedly good-hearted and uplifting comedy, a down-and-out ex-major leaguer finds redemption by coaching an upstart yeshiva baseball team. After his career implodes, former centerfielder Charlie Jones (Brian Wimmer) is sentenced to mandatory community service after a drunk driving conviction. Shunned by society, he soon discovers that the only people willing to give him a second chance are equally desperate yeshiva students on a quest to start their own baseball team. Attempting to rebuild his reputation and mend fences with those he has wronged in the past, Charlie reluctantly agrees to coach the Yankles to the league championships. Mixing shtick with a surprisingly sensitive portrayal of the ultra-Orthodox world, this fun, family-friendly sports story delivers a feel-good message about overcoming bigotry and self-doubt.

The six short films, which will be available on the AJFF Virtual Cinema during both festival days, include:

Shorts Program 1:

A Jew Walks Into a Bar

An ultra-Orthodox Brooklynite aspires to become a stand-up comedian in this refreshing, funny yet poignant depiction of the troublesome dichotomy and conflict between religion and career.

Space Torah

Space travel, Jewish world values and Yiddishkeit conjoin in this visual stunner that relates the uniquely inspiring life and out-of-this-world journey of Jewish-American astronaut Dr. Jeff Hoffman.

To Step Forward Myself

The moving story of an American college grad who lost his life in Lebanon after joining the Israeli military.

Shorts Program 2:

I Have a Message for You

An unfathomable decision by an Auschwitz survivor leaves a huge burden on her conscience, in this uplifting and extraordinary story of love and survival, told adroitly through heartfelt testimony enhanced by beautifully rendered abstract animation.

The Last Blintz

The emotional closing days of an iconic Times Square eatery and show biz haunt, a last vestige of old New York in an era of hyper-gentrification.

Joe’s Violin

Across generations and backgrounds, a musical instrument brings together a Polish Holocaust survivor and a Bronx schoolgirl.

Stay connected with AJFF via social media on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram or at www.ajff.org. If interested in interviewing AJFF’s Executive Director Kenny Blank, please email Mallory Moskovitz at mallory@360media.net.

About Atlanta Jewish Film Festival: AJFF’s mission is to entertain and engage diverse audiences with film through a Jewish lens while simultaneously challenging conventional perspectives on culture and history, life in Israel, and the work of Jewish artists – particularly where these stories intersect with other communities. While traditional in-person programs were on hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, AJFF launched a series of virtual initiatives to serve its audience, including the “In Conversation” podcast and webinar series, a 20th anniversary “Playback” bracket-style film competition, and the “AJFF Recommends” online catalog of Jewish cinema. In addition to its core programs, AJFF continues to work alongside its many partner organizations to support the greater Atlanta community while raising the bar for film festivals worldwide. Founded by the Atlanta Regional Office of American Jewish Committee (AJC) in 2000, AJFF has operated as an independent non-profit arts organization since 2014, while continuing an active partnership with its founding agency. Stay connected via social media on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and use #AJFF2021.