By Collin Kelley and Martha Nodar

The 15th annual Atlanta Jewish Film Festival kicks off Jan. 28 at participating local theatres and runs through Feb. 19 with more than 100 screenings on the schedule.

The festival will open with Above and Beyond, a gripping documentary produced by Nancy Spielberg (Steven’s sister) about the creation of the Israeli Air Force. Another anticipated film will be 24 Days, a harrowing tale of the kidnapping, torture and murder of a young Frenchman by a youth gang in Paris. The closing night film will be Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem, a portrait of the beloved actor and performer.

24 Days

Gabriel Wardell, film evaluation co-chair for the festival, described the quality of this year’s films as “very high.”

“There was plenty of heated discussion and passion about the films among the committee,” Wardell said. “I think the slate we have is interesting and engaging.”

Wardell said the committee of more than a dozen people started watching movies in May and watched hundreds of films to narrow down this year’s festival, which is the second largest in the country. Another sellout is expected, so film lovers are encouraged to buy their tickets early when they go on sale Jan. 11.

“I’m excited,” said Sandy Springs resident Gail Cohn. “This festival is a fantastic event with films that focus on subjects of human interest, educate the public about cultural issues, art, cinema – the panorama of life.”

Above and Beyond

Cohn is one of the festival volunteers involved in this year’s guest programming committee responsible for identifying the appropriate guest speakers who introduce the films to the audience. These speakers attempt to create an interest in the film by sharing with the audience some details about the movie without giving away the plot, she said.

Ellen Stein, also of Sandy Springs said having a presenter introduce each film helps to enhance the movie experience.

“I was very impressed with the quality and variety of the films last year,” she said. “I went to 20 movies. That was the first time I had participated so fully in the AJFF.”

Stein’s friend and Midtown resident Phyllis Abramson said she tries to attend the festival every year and typically goes to places near her such as the Tara Cinema and the theatre at the Woodruff Arts Center.

”The festival offers a great diversity of movies focusing on themes of humanity, not only on Jewish subjects, but tap into areas of interest to the community at large,” she said.

For ticket information, film lineup and venues visit ajff.org.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.