The 20th annual Atlanta Jewish Film Festival opens February 10 with the documentary Shared Legacies: The African-American Jewish Civil Rights Alliance and closes February 27 with another documentary, Saul & Ruby, To Life!
The full lineup for the 2020 AJFF will be announced Friday (January 10), but we can sketch in a few titles and dates now. Tickets go on sale online and via the box office (678.701.6104) on January 27. The event generally attracts more than 38,000 moviegoers.
Last year’s festival focused on the #MeToo movement and freedom of the press, among other issues.
This year’s 18-day event opens at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, then expands to multiple metro venues — four returning (UA Tara Cinemas, Regal Cinemas Perimeter Pointe, the Woodruff Arts Center and the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center) — and two new intown locations (Midtown Art Cinema and the Plaza Theatre).
The world premiere of Shared Legacies (USA, 95 minutes) opens the festival at Cobb Energy Centre. It examines the modern alliance between African Americans and Jewish Americans, which dates to the founding of the NAACP in 1909. Both groups have endured decades of segregation and racism, from the codified bigotry of Jim Crow to blatant bias in real estate, employment, higher education and politics. General admission tickets are $36 and include complimentary parking, the screening and a post-film Q&A.
Saul & Ruby, To Life! (USA, 80 minutes), also at Cobb Energy Centre, closes the festival. It follows an inseparable pair of Holocaust survivors who bring their tuneful call for peace and healing from assisted-living facilities in Florida to the world stage. Saul is Saul Dreier, who was 89 when he picked up drumsticks and founded the Holocaust Survivor Band. Ruby is accordion player Ruby Sosnowicz. Dreier’s dream: to share the music that sustained him during his internment. $36. Includes complimentary parking, the screening, a post-film Q&A and performance, and a dessert reception.
Standing Up, Falling Down (USA, 91 minutes) screens February 15 for Young Professionals Night (at the Woodruff Arts Center). Emmy Award winner Ben Schwartz (NBC’s Parks and Recreation) and comic actor Billy Crystal headline this buddy comedy about an intergenerational friendship between a struggling stand-up comic and an older, disillusioned barfly. $36. Includes the screening and a pre-screening party.
AJFF officials also have announced these seven titles:
Aulcie (USA, 72 minutes). This documentary profiles Israeli basketball legend Aulcie Perry, who was recruited for the fledgling Maccabi Tel Aviv team from the courts of Harlem in 1976. He later converted to Judaism, adopted the Hebrew name Elisha ben Avraham, became an Israeli citizen and dated a famous model. Unable to handle his celebrity, however, he became addicted to drugs and was arrested for drug smuggling. He’s now sober and living in Israel. This sequel comes from writer/director Dani Menkin and follows his award-winning documentary On the Map, screened during 2017’s AJFF.
Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn (USA, 94 minutes). Southeastern premiere. This documentary takes an unflinching look at the closeted, conservative lawyer and influential political fixer, searching for the human being behind the Machiavellian persona. A self-hating Jew who adamantly denied his homosexuality, this flamboyant personality and courtroom pit bull is revealed as an icon of a deeply troubled America. Roy Cohn died in 1986 at age 59 from complications of AIDS. This film is directed by Ivy Meeropol, the granddaughter of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed for espionage largely through Cohn’s efforts. It features interviews with gossip columnist Cindy Adams, attorney Alan Dershowitz, playwright Tony Kushner, actor Nathan Lane and filmmaker John Waters.
Crescendo (Germany, 112 minutes). A world-famous conductor tries to create a youth orchestra of Israeli and Palestinian musicians, only to be drawn into a tempest of seemingly unsolvable problems. Loosely inspired by Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and directed by Academy Award nominee Dror Zahavi. Winner of the 2019 Audience Prize at the Festival of German Film, Ludwigshafen am Rhein. Screened at the Munich Film Festival.
The Glass Room (Czech Republic, 104 minutes). North American premiere. Charts the saga of Czech newlyweds in the years after World War I and their iconic modernist family home, which becomes a paean to their greatest hopes and darkest secrets. Screened at the UK Jewish Film Festival.
Golda (Israel/Germany, 88 minutes). A previously unaired TV interview forms the narrative backbone of this documentary about Golda Meir. It tells the story of Israel’s first and only female prime minister (1969–1974), her rise to power and her lonely demise. Screened at the Docaviv International Documentary Film Festival and San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.
The Mamboniks (USA, 90 minutes). Jewish and Latino cultures meet on the dance floor in this documentary about free-spirited New Yorkers who fell in love with the sultry moves from Cuba, called the mambo, in the years after World War II. Set to the infectious Afro-Cuban sounds of Tito Puente and Celia Cruz.
No Pork on the Fork (USA, 23 minutes). World premiere. Described as a “mouthwatering and often humorous behind-the-scenes look at the Atlanta Kosher BBQ Festival.”