Atlanta Jewish Film Festival turns 17

The annual event returns with 200-plus screenings, notable guests and more

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Now in its 17th year, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival’s mission remains: to “entertain and engage diverse audiences with film through a Jewish lens.” Far more than a weekend of film screenings, the AJFF encompasses 23 days of Q&As, panel discussions and more.Of course, there will be screenings around ATL as well — a record-breaking 202 of them, featuring 75 films from 24 countries. Notables include the U.S. premiere of Forever Pure and the mockumentary The 90 Minute War. CL chatted with the AJFF Associate Director Brad Pilcher about what newcomers should know about the festival and why events like this are vital to Atlanta as a whole.What excites you most about AJFF this year?Our two pillars are the quality of the films and the audience experience, and I’m perhaps most excited by the ways we’ve really outdone previous festivals on both fronts. The 2017 lineup is, to me, one of our most well-rounded ever, with a little something for everybody. The efforts we’ve made to increase the accessibility of the festival seem to be paying off, with ticket purchasing running much more smoothly and sellouts being (a little bit) less of an issue for as many patrons. It’s really satisfying to see those efforts pay off. Of course, there’s a great deal of new things, like our Jury Prizes and more year-round programming we’ll be rolling out in 2017, but if the audience doesn’t have a great time with some world-class movies, nothing else matters.How does AJFF work to carry out its mission year after year?We really bend over backward to make sure we have a wide, diverse array of perspectives as we plan the festival. Our film evaluation team is made up of over 200 volunteers, each one picked to reflect audiences who are young, old, Jewish, non-Jewish, black, white, Asian, Latinx, men, women, etc. Why are events like this important to Atlanta?We believe, strongly, that people are better off when they’re seeing different points of view, learning as much as they can about themselves and about each other. At the end of the day, we are a Jewish film festival, but we recognize that the Jewish experience is integrated with the broader culture, and some of the most interesting insights come when cultures collide with and interact with each other.What would you tell a first-time AJFF attendee?

If I had to stress one thing to somebody who may never have experienced AJFF, it would be the sense of welcome. It’s like a big family holiday, with lots of people talking to each other, and taking in great films and great discussions.
Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. $10-$18. Times vary. Tues., Jan. 24 - Wed., Feb. 15. Locations vary. ajff.org.