What to See at the 2015 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival

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Six continents are represented across dozens of narratives, documentaries and short films in this diverse program from the 15th edition of the Southeast’s largest film festival. Here are 23 films you need to see this year.


In its 15-year history, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival has risen to the top of Georgia’s and the Southeast’s film festival circuits in terms of both attendees and expansive programming. Now spanning 25 days of film screenings at 7 venues—plus numerous parties—AJFF is one of the most well orchestrated and highly publicized events in the state each year.

This year’s program offers the same great range in international Jewish or Jewish-interest films we’ve come to expect from the festival. You certainly don’t have to be Jewish to attend or to enjoy these films; the festival’s biggest hurdle being that of reaching beyond their obvious clientele. All that simply matters for you to enjoy AJFF is that you must like great films!

Whether you check out Israel’s biggest hit films from the last year (Golden Globe nominee “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem” or “Zero Motivation”) or you want to educate yourself through a variety of non-fiction films (“Above All Else,” “Raise the Roof”), there is something for everyone. There are world premieres (“Dough”) and special anniversary screenings (“Avalon,” “The Shop on Main Street”).

The 15th annual Atlanta Jewish Film Festival kicks off next Wednesday, January 28th at the Cobb Energy Center and runs through February 19th at several different venues in Atlanta, Sandy Springs, Marietta and Alpharetta.

Check out nearly two dozen of our picks for this year’s festival!

Opening Night: Above All Else

A ragtag band of volunteer airmen mobilizes in the skies above Israel to fight for the fledgling nation’s survival in “Above and Beyond.” Directed by Roberta Grossman (“Hava Nagila: The Movie”), this is the first film to present the true story behind this gallant and daring wartime escapade.

Closing Night: Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem

Immortalizing two beloved cultural icons in an enchanting musical biography, “Theodore Bikel” is a joyous extravaganza of Jewish storytelling and song. Narrated by Emmy-winning actor Alan Alda, this film is full of wisdom, warmth, laughter and tears as it spills forth a fountain brimming with Yiddish heritage.

Must See: Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

An emotionally shackled Israeli woman seeks divorce from her suffocating spouse and archaic judges in “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,” Israel’s official submission for the Best Foreign Language Oscar. A brilliant ensemble of Israel’s finest actors gives life to this scathing indictment of the religious establishment that dominates Israeli life. Nominated for 12 Israeli Academy Awards, with a Best Film win and Best Supporting Actor award for Sasson Gabai.

Must See: Night Will Fall

A long-lost Holocaust documentary containing unimaginable images of genocide passes through the hands of legendary filmmakers like Sidney Bernstein, Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder, only to be shelved and then resurface 70 years after the war in “Night Will Fall.” Narrated by Helena Bonham-Carter, the film presents deeply unsettling raw material from the unfinished 1945 documentary, as well as interviews with Holocaust historians and eyewitnesses, film editors, and the cameramen left traumatized by the unexpected scenes of human atrocity, which awaited them.

Must See: Zero Motivation

A stir-crazy platoon of paper-pushing Israeli female soldiers does battle with boredom—and one another—in the aptly titled black comedy, “Zero Motivation.” A raucous and freewheeling ride through the inanity of military bureaucracy, the film scored 12 Israeli Academy Award nominations, with wins for Best Screenplay, a Best Actress prize for Dana Ivgy and Best Director honors for Talya Lavie.

Must See: Dancing Arabs

A young Palestinian outsider struggles to find his place in Israeli society in the coming-of-age drama, “Dancing Arabs,” by acclaimed veteran filmmaker Eran Riklis (“The Syrian Bride”). Arab-Israeli journalist Sayed Kashua’s semi-autobiographical screenplay is a plea for understanding between both sides of an intractable political divide. Nominated for four Israeli Academy Awards, including Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor.

Must See: Little White Lie

A Harvard Law School graduate unravels a life-long facade of family secrets and betrayal in order to come to terms with her true origins in “Little White Lie.” Through candid interviews with loved ones, and the memories within home movies and photos, the film explores in very personal terms larger questions of race, redemption and self-discovery.

Must See: Closer to the Moon
Oscar-nominee Vera Farmiga stars in this absurdist black comedy based on the incredible true story of an audacious Romanian bank heist by high-ranking Jewish Communists posing as moviemakers. One of the most expensive productions in Romanian cinema, “Closer to the Moon” mixes distinctive Jewish humor with a fatalist melancholy in an outlandish history lesson open to endless interpretation.

Awards Contenders

Many of the non-Israeli international narratives that play AJFF wind up being the official submissions for the foreign language Oscar from their countries. This year, “Horses of God” (Morocco) and “Mr. Kaplan” (Uruguay) were submitted, although neither went on to make the cut. “The Physician” earned 5 German Film Award nominations, in addition to boasting a cast that includes Oscar-winner Ben Kingsley, Stellan Skarsgard and Olivier Martinez.

  • “Horses of God” (pictured)
  • “Mr. Kaplan”
  • “The Physician”
Ophir Nominees

While “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem” won two Ophir Awards (Israeli Oscars) this past year, including Best Picture, several more films in this year’s lineup received wins and nominations. Must-see films “Zero Motivation” and “Dancing Arabs” also received their share of Ophir glory. “The Farewell Party” won 4 out of 14 nominations, while “A Place in Heaven” received 10 nominations across the board in 2013.

  • “Apples in the Desert”
  • “The Farewell Party”
  • “Magic Men”
  • “A Place in Heaven” (pictured)
  • “Self Made”
Docs to Watch

Great documentaries are no stranger to AJFF, and this year is no exception. In addition to opening night film “Above All Else” and festival closer “Theodore Bikel,” some of our most anticipated docs at this year’s festival are the ones that are thematically a little different. “Raise the Roof” takes a look at the difficult reconstruction of a lost wooden synagogue in Poland. “The Prime Ministers” looks at the often tense relationship between American and Israeli leadership in the 1970s and 80s.

  • “My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes”
  • “The Outrageous Sophie Tucker”
  • “The Prime Ministers: Soldiers and Peacemakers” (pictured)
  • “Raise the Roof”
Happy Anniversary!

Last year’s anniversary screenings included the Georgia-set and shot Best Picture Oscar winner “Driving Miss Daisy,” among others. This year, a 50th anniversary screening of the Best Foreign Language Oscar winner (Czech Republic) “The Shop on Main Street” headlines the retrospective track. A 40th anniversary presentation of “Hester Street” and a 25th anniversary presentation of “Avalon” also feature.

  • 25th: “Avalon” (pictured)
  • 40th: “Hester Street”
  • 50th: “The Shop on Main Street”
Find out more information and get tickets at www.ajff.org.
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