Highlights of the Atlanta Film Festival: Interview with Executive Director Chris Escobar

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Written by Mollee D. Harper, Senior Editor

Georgia Film News had the pleasure of catching up with Chris Escobar, Executive Director for the Atlanta Film Society. The 2017 Atlanta Film Festival is in its fourth year as the flagship program for the Atlanta Film Society, and is scheduled to start next week on Friday, March 24. During our time together, Escobar shares this year’s exciting lineup of events, film highlights, opportunities for artists, as well as depth and diversity of filmmakers and industry professionals featured and participating in the festival this year.

The 2017 Atlanta Film Festival is a 10-day event that starts next Friday on March 24, 2017 and runs through Sunday, April 2, 2017. There are almost 300 filmmakers coming in to Atlanta, Georgia for this event from around the globe, along with an estimated 27,000 attendees. The film festival features over 200 films in the categories of narrative features, documentary features, short film blocks, experimental, animation and special presentations and includes everything from “must-see” independent films to billboard movies.

Escobar offered, “There are over 150 events scheduled including film screenings and panel discussions, a creative conference, parties and other social events. Last year’s festival attracted 27,000 attendees over the 10-day event. We are expecting around that same number this year, hopefully more.”

“We are featuring a number of great independent films selected from over 6,000 submissions from 120+ countries as well as movies you’ll see in movie theatres this year by A24 Films and Magnolia Pictures featuring Jessica Chastain and others.”

Escobar continued, “Some of our highlights include our opening and closing night films. Our bookends are really great this year. Opening night starts with ‘Dave Made a Maze’ sponsored by Moonshine Post-Production, a real quirky, underdog labyrinth meets science sleep guy documentary about a man who builds a fort in his living room, and his struggles and plight. This film has a real mythical or magical quality to it with incredible art direction, and there are amazing comedians in this film; it’s really funny, and thought provoking.”

“On closing night, our other bookend film is ‘Menashe’, a prestige film from A24 Films sponsored by Music Matters. This is stirring story about an Orthodox Hasidic Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York. After his wife dies, based on Jewish tradition, the father is not able to raise his son. It’s one of the edgier films and A24 is a well known distributor. We thought it was a great film to close on.”

“There has been a recent focus on more opportunities for women to direct film. One of the exciting things for us is that not only are the vast majority of our films independent, over 40% are directed by people of color, and over 50% are directed by women. There is an incredible array of films featured by an incredibly diverse group of people representing many different viewpoints and experiences.”

Escobar described, “A couple of other highlights include our FOOD ON FILM: My Cousin Vinny – 25th Anniversary event. We are celebrating the anniversary of that iconic film shot in Georgia. Badge holders will be invited to attend an after-party themed around grits and all of the Southern dishes that celebrate them. We thought a grits party would be fun, and a chicy way to tie the cuisine back to the film. Grits were a big part of the diner scene and a turning point in investigation. It should be a great event.”

“There is also a signature mid-week event—SOUND+VISION—at 787 Windsor in Mechanicsville this year. It’s being held on this industrial property turned into an awesome event space and features incredible bands, unforgettable art installations, daring films, and scores of food trucks. This is normally our biggest and most popular event at the festival.”

Escobar added, “Oz Magazine features our full program. It’s available online and in print next week. Our lineup and schedule is also on AtlantaFilmFestival.com where you can get advanced tickets, badges and passes. We recommend the badges and passes as they are the most economical path where you can take advantage of the many events. The other great benefit is that anyone who purchases a hopper pass or badge receives a year round membership to the Atlanta Film Society so they can benefit and participate in our events, classes, and more throughout the year.”

Escobar concluded, “We are the single largest event in the state of Georgia that really engages the film and television industry. We feature Academy Award-winners, and have several leading entertainment industry professionals participating and serving on our panels. We are happy to feature local stories by local storytellers. We are open to everyone. If you are someone in the film industry or someone who wants to be in the film industry in Georgia, this is an absolute must to attend.”

For more information, the complete film lineup or festival schedule for the 2017 Atlanta Film Festival, visit: http://atlantafilmfestival.com/.

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