Each February in Sandy Springs, tens of thousands of community members come together to experience the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, a multi-week cinematic celebration of Jewish culture and history.  This year marks the 20th anniversary of the festival, which will be held from February 10th through 27th at seven venues throughout the Atlanta area, including Sandy Springs’ own Performing Arts Center and the Regal Perimeter Pointe Theatre. Throughout the month, festival-goers can attend more than 60 international films of various lengths, languages, and subjects. All films are created by Jewish filmmakers and depict some aspect of Jewish life and culture.

General admission tickets are just $15 per film for weekend and weekday evening shows, while matinee, senior, student, and children’s tickets can be purchased for $13. Tickets sales begin online and via phone on Monday, January 27th. Tickets can be purchased on-site at the designated venues during the festival. Once you’ve purchased your tickets, they can be claimed via email or at will call.

In addition to documentaries, shorts, and feature-length films, AJFF also presents guest speakers and special events, making it a can’t-miss cultural event for people of all ages and backgrounds. Read on to learn more about the festival’s rich history and many wonderful offerings. And remember to mark your calendar for Opening Night on February 10th.

1. Special Guest Speakers

Every year, AJFF invites dozens of celebrated guest speakers to give talks and host Q&As before and after select films. The speakers are filmmakers, actors, authors, academics, critics and a variety of other experts who provide context and insights that enhance the audience’s movie-going experiences. These presentations are always included in the price of the ticket and will be noted at the time of purchase.

2. Fantastic Feature Screenings

Creative Loafing Art Party at the 2014 AJFF
Pre-film parties are a fun way to connect with friends before heading in to listen to the guest speaker and watch the show. Atlanta Jewish Film Festival

AJFF will present many incredible feature films hailing from around the globe and covering a vast scope of subjects. Here are a few films you can look forward to during this year’s festival:

Aulcie tells the story of Israeli basketball star Aulcie Perry’s exciting athletic career in the 1970s, his struggles with drug addiction, and ultimately, his journey to sobriety. This film is a follow-up to award-winning On the Map, which was presented at AJFF in 2017.

Another riveting documentary, Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn, delves into the life and identity of the Jewish power broker who acted as chief counsel to Joseph McCarthy’s communist hearings and brought about the executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The documentary seeks to unearth the humanity beneath Cohn’s ruthless exterior and includes revealing archival video and audio material.

The German narrative film Crescendo follows a renowned conductor as he attempts to train a youth orchestra of Israeli and Palestinian musicians who are predisposed to dislike one another. The conductor must use the reconciliatory power of music to unite the factions within the orchestra in time for them to perform at a peace summit in Italy.

In the erotic and dramatic narrative The Glass Room, Viktor and Liesel Landauer begin their marriage during the optimistic and idealistic time that followed WWI in central Europe in the 1930s. Soon their lives are overrun by infidelity, Nazis, and communism, and they find themselves fleeing home and fighting for survival.

Golda takes an in-depth look at Israel’s first and only female Prime Minister, Golda Meir, who led the country through the turbulent period from 1969 to 1974. This documentary centers around a never-before-seen television interview in which Meir spoke about her own historical significance shortly before she died.

The Mamboniks follows a group of New Yorkers who became enthralled with the Cuban mambo as a way to escape the horrors left behind by WWII. This documentary explores the history of the popular Latin dance and how it permeated the US from Miami to the Catskills.

Finally, the Georiga-based short No Pork on the Fork takes a behind-the-scenes look at Atlanta’s annual Kosher BBQ Festival, which has been held each October for nearly a decade.

3. The Festival’s Fascinating History

AJFF was founded in 2000 by the Atlanta Regional Office of American Jewish Committee (AJC) to promote stronger bonds within the Jewish community, and to create connections with other religious, cultural, and ethnic communities throughout Atlanta. The inaugural year saw 1,900 attendees, and that number grew to more than 20,000 within the festival’s first decade. In 2015, AJFF became the world’s largest Jewish film festival and now draws more than 30,000 viewers each year.

Every year, the festival hosts special Opening and Closing Night celebrations, which this year will feature Shared Legacies: The African-American Jewish Civil Rights Alliance and Saul and Ruby, To Life! respectively. Tickets to each event are $36 and include the screening, complimentary parking, a post-film Q&A and refreshments.

Additionally, Young Professionals Night will be held on February 15th at the Woodruff Arts Center and will present Standing Up, Falling Down for 2020. Tickets for this event are also $36 and include the film and a pre-show party.

4. Great Screening Venues

AJFF Red Carpet
There are a host of amazing art centers and theaters presenting films at this year’s festival. Counsel

In 2020, AJFF’s two main venues are right here in Sandy Springs! The Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center at City Springs will host the Closing Night celebration on February 27th. When attending a screening at City Springs, make sure to allow time to explore the park and enjoy an elegant meal at The Select Restaurant + Bar or NAM Kitchen, all within walking distance of the venue. The Regal Perimeter Pointe is our other very special venue, which is located near the Perimeter Pointe Shopping Center’s many stores and restaurants.

The festival’s wonderful returning venues are the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center, the Woodruff Arts Cinema and United Artists Tara Cinemas, and new venues for 2020 include the historic Plaza Theatre and the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.

5. The Festival’s Cultural Importance

The American Jewish Committee exists to promote the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel through education, outreach, and diplomacy, and it’s this mission that led it to create the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival 20 years ago. Through the power of cinema, people from diverse backgrounds come together to explore how Jewish stories intersect with other communities in Atlanta and around the globe.

In addition to delving into complex elements of the Jewish experience throughout history, many of the films and speakers also focus on taking new approaches to complex challenges faced by Jewish communities. While each film at AJFF is educational in its own way, moviegoers can also expect to be immersed in art, beauty, and entertainment.

Written by Madison Eubanks for Matcha in partnership with Sandy Springs GA.