The mission of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival 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. They especially like to showcase films in which these areas intersect with other communities. Kenny Blank is the executive director of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, and he joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to discuss their new online catalog, “AJFF Recommends.”
2020 marks the 20th anniversary season of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. In those two decades, the festival has screened nearly 1,400 films. “AJFF Recommends” offers every film ever shown at the festival since its inaugural season. The movies are searchable by various categories ranging from the festival year, director, genre, country, or even the film’s subject. “For us, there was no choice. We knew, especially during these times, our audience needed the inspiration that film brings. They needed that food for the soul,” said Blank. The catalog also gives you options as to how you can stream, rent or purchase the films.
AJFF is also offering an interactive film contest that allows viewers to vote on their favorite films. “The Playback film contest gives our audience the chance to vote for their favorite films, their favorite narrative feature, documentary feature and their favorite short film from the 20 years of festival programs. It’s designed as a ‘Final Four’ bracket. So you start with one block of films, the audience watches these movies, they cast their vote, the field narrows, we have the next round of voting, and ultimately we wind up with the winner with each of those genres,” said Blank.
AJFF also launched a webinar series and a bi-weekly podcast, and both called “AJFF in Conversation.” The monthly webinar series spotlights notable filmmakers, actors and artists in Jewish cinema. They have virtual Q&A sessions with experts like actor Jesse Eisenberg, renowned acting teacher Moni Yakim, the co-creator of the Netflix series Unorthodox Alexa Korlinski and more. The podcast is a platform for hosts Sara Glassberg and Brad Pilcher to take a deep dive into the different themes and topics covered in Jewish films.
Luckily, the 2020 festival began in February, but the organization is currently discussing what next year’s festival will look like with the ongoing pandemic.