THE 2017 ATLANTA FILM FEST — THE 41st — UNREELS 191 MOVIES FROM 40 COUNTRIES BEGINNING FRIDAY
Atlanta, often dubbed the Hollywood of the South, ATLwood or the colloquially familiar “Y’allywood,” has become a destination for filmmaking and lovers of film in he past two decades.
The Atlanta Film Festival, the grande dame of cinema celebrations here, is still growing in its 41st year. Much the same can be said for everything else film-related in the region.
The durable fest, presented every spring by the Atlanta Film Society, hit an attendance high of 27,000 last year. Spokesman Cameron McAllister says organizers expect even higher numbers this year.
The 10-day affair, beginning Friday and running through April 6, is densely packed with premieres, educational programming, marquee screenings and a creative conference that in previous years hosted actor William H. Macy and filmmaker Victor Nunez (Ulee’s Gold, Ruby in Paradise). Cinematic offerings are wide-ranging enough to interest both casual and critical film fans. The geek-out factor is high, but the fest also packs gravitas.
Screenings are at six venues this year, centered in the Little Five Points, Poncey-Highland and downtown Atlanta areas (parking info HERE). They are:
- 7 Stages, 1105 Euclid Ave. NE (Little Five Points).
- Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, 980 Briarcliff Road NE.
- Dad’s Garage Theatre Company, 569 Ezzard St SE (in the Old Fourth Ward).
- Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce De Leon Ave NE.
- Ponce City Market, 675 Ponce De Leon Ave NE.
- Rialto Center for the Arts, 80 Forsyth St. NW.
Single tickets are $10, Movie Hopper cards are $75, and all-access passes are $350. A producer’s pass ($750) includes exclusive access to screenings, educational programming and festival parties. Details, tickets HERE.
Friday’s opening-night screening is Dave Made a Maze (USA 2017, 81 mins) from director Bill Watterson, who will attend. See it at 7 p.m. Friday at the Plaza Theatre (downstairs). The plot, a nod to 1980s adventures, features a young man who builds a fort in his living room and drags his girlfriend through a down-the-rabbit-hole experience.
On closing night, AFF partners with the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival for Menashe (USA/Israel, 91 mins), a drama tucked deep in the world of New York City’s ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews. It’s directed by Joshua Z. Weinstein. See it at 7:30 p.m. April 6, also downstairs at the Plaza Theatre. In Yiddish.
Fest organizers this year sifted through 6,085 submissions from around the world, a record number, eventually winnowing the screenings to 191 films from 40 countries — 47 features, 116 shorts and 28 creative media, which includes music videos and episodic plots.
Several dozen films have Georgia connections, from stories set in the South to homegrown talent and instantly recognizable locales.
In another nod to its gravitas, the Atlanta festival is an Oscar-qualifier in three categories — narrative short film, documentary short film and animated short film. It’s one of only 24 festivals in the country that are Academy Award-qualifying in three or more categories.
What exactly does that mean?
It means that the films in those three categories chosen as winners by the AFF jury (usually made of fest alumni, local filmmakers and industry professionals) can be considered for Oscars, can be Oscar-nominated and can win.
It’s happened before.
Georgia native Ray McKinnon, once a familiar face in Atlanta theater, debuted his short film The Accountant at the 2001 festival. The comedy, which he wrote and directed, won the AFF’s jury prize and the 2002 Oscar for best short subject.
This year’s event, McAllister says, made particular efforts in two areas. Organizers looked for movies directed by women or focused on strong female characters and/or movies from filmmakers of color.
“Our goal was 50 percent of the films shown,” McAllister says, “and we came close.”