What began 12 years ago with 24 movies about Jewish life and 2,000 or so viewers is now Atlanta’s largest film festival and the second-largest Jewish film festival in the world.

We’re talking about the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival (AJFF), which rolls out its 2013 edition Jan. 30 with a gala opening night at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre and continues through Feb. 20. Its lineup of 70-plus films will be screened at five metro venues over three weeks: Regal Cinemas Atlantic Station Stadium 16 (Midtown); Lefont Sandy Springs; Georgia Theatre Company Merchants Walk (Marietta); United Artists Tara Cinema 4 (northeast Atlanta); and Regal Cinemas North Point Market 8 (Alpharetta). COMPLETE SCHEDULE HERE.

There are 115 Jewish film fests throughout the United States each year, in places such as Miami, New York and San Francisco. The Atlanta festival distinguishes itself by defying people’s expectations of what a Jewish film festival is, in the words of executive director Kenny Blank.

The AJFF now attracts more than 30,000 attendees, showcasing international and independent works that metro audiences wouldn’t otherwise see. The films range from documentaries to shorts to feature films that examine issues and topics that affect both Jews and non-Jews. The AJFF has twice been named Atlanta’s best film festival by readers of the alternative weekly newspaper Creative Loafing.

Blank was a festival volunteer and WXIA-TV producer when he was hired as AJFF’s first full-time executive director in 2004. The New York University film school grad had a plan: Turn the festival into a major cultural event. To a large extent, he’s succeeded.

“They’re just great films,” he’s said of the annual lineup. “They really stand on their own as great dramas or comedies or historic epics. They’re just good filmmaking, but they also happen to have some kind of Jewish theme.”

The 2013 edition runs through Feb. 20. For a complete lineup, locations, details on speakers and more, visit the festival’s website at www.ajff.org. The event is produced by the American Jewish Committee Atlanta, whose mission is to build understanding between Jewish and non-Jewish communities.




About Kathy Janich

Kathy Janich is a longtime arts journalist who has been seeing, working in or writing about the performing arts for most of her life. She's a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, Americans for the Arts and the National Arts Marketing Project. Full disclosure: She’s also an artistic associate at Synchronicity Theatre.

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