I don’t have a clue what I’ll be doing next week, but have a pretty good idea how I’ll be spending much of February. The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, one of the premiere flick fests in the country, has expanded and will be offering dozens of movies at venues across the Land of Cotton.
The lovely Miss Wendy and I have already made our choices and bought our tickets. Over the course of three weeks, some 60 films will be screened. Wendy and I managed to rip apart our calendars and rethink our daily schedules so we can attend a dozen or so. There are comedies and dramas, documentaries and shorts. They all explore the human condition and, in some fashion, there’s always a Jewish twist.
On one memorable Sunday, Wendy and I will be spending the day at our local multiplex – it’s one of the new venues added this year. Our marathon effort will begin with a documentary, “100 Voices: A Journey Home,” followed by two feature films, “The Human Resources Manager”, and “The Matchmaker”.
The documentary takes a look at the generation of chazanim lost during the Holocaust and brings together a group of world-class cantors in Poland to share their musical talents and memories of what’s been lost.
The Jewish factor of the features is a bit harder to classify. Both films are comedies, were produced in Israel and, I imagine, are imbued with a certain, um, yiddishkeit. It’s the details, the little bits of narrischkeit – Jewish nonsense – that make these movies entertaining and makes the film festival a not-to-be-missed happening each winter.
At one end of the artistic spectrum, the festival – btw, this will be its eleventh year – is all about entertainment and education, offering movies focusing on Jewish life, culture and history. That’s the party line, pulled from the festival’s official website here. But slide along this philosophical plane and I think there’s something of import resting at the other end of the spectrum.
There’s 120,000 Jews in the metro area and over the course of the festival thousands will attend at least one show. Last year the film fest drew some 20,000 moviegoers and expectations are high new records will be set. No other Jewish event – religious, communal or cultural – comes close to attracting such large numbers in the Land of Cotton.
The films, of course, are the draw. The icing on the cake is bumping into friends and family – the ganze mispucha. The wailing about the loss of Jewish identity and the real concerns of assimilation fade for at least a few weeks.
So we can all collectively sit back and relax in a darkened theater, laugh a little, cry a little, lose ourselves in what’s being offered on the big screen. And at least for an hour or two return home to our Jewish community that grows just a little smaller and more distant each year.