LGBT and Jewish, on the big screen

GA Voice - - Film -

The At­lanta Jewish Film Fes­ti­val, the city’s largest film fes­ti­val as well as the sec­ond most at­tended fes­ti­val of its kind in the world, kicks off Jan. 30 with an im­pres­sive LGBT track. Tick­ets are on sale now, and some screen­ings are al­ready sold out.

The 13th an­nual fes­ti­val runs through Feb.20. In all, more than 70 films will be shown over a three week pe­riod. Open­ing night this year will be held at the Cobb En­ergy Cen­tre with the crowd-pleas­ing “Hava Nag­ila (The Movie).”

Sub­se­quent screen­ings take place all over the city, in­clud­ing the Re­gal Cinemas At­lantic Sta­tion Sta­dium 16, Le­font Sandy Springs, Ge­or­gia The­atre Com­pany Mer­chants Walk, Re­gal Cin­ema’s North Point Mar­ket 8 and the United Artists Tara Cinemas 4.

It’s tra­di­tional to fea­ture LGBT films as part of the event – and also vi­tal, ac­cord­ing to Brad Pilcher, as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of the fes­ti­val.

“The LGBT com­mu­nity in At­lanta is siz­able, and the LGBT com­mu­nity is a part of the Jewish com­mu­nity,” Pilcher says. “It is im­por­tant for us to reach out to our com­mu­nity – the LGBT com­mu­nity, the Mus­lim com­mu­nity, the black com­mu­nity.”

Although there are no LGBT staffers, the fes­ti­val has a num­ber of LGBT vol­un­teers, he adds.

Pilcher feels the themes LGBT films raise are im­por­tant to tackle and dis­cuss.

“What is im­por­tant for us as a fes­ti­val is look­ing at the in­ter­sec­tion of Jewish and nonJewish life,” he says. “We in­ter­sect with other com­mu­ni­ties, re­li­gion and the world. It’s im­por­tant to show films that start a di­a­logue.”

In his sixth year with the fes­ti­val but first as sec­ond in charge, Pilcher feels this year’s LGBT of­fer­ings are strong.

Of par­tic­u­lar note is the fes­ti­val’s maiden LGBT dou­ble fea­ture of two LGBT doc­u­men­taries on Feb. 8. “The In­vis­i­ble Men” ex­am­ines the plight of three young Pales­tinian men who have fled to Is­rael while “Un­dress­ing Is­rael: Gay Men in the Promised Land” is di­rec­tor Michael Lu­cas’ look at an ironic side of Is­rael – on one hand, it’s in a re­gion that is very re­li­gious, but it’s also known as a place that is ac­cept­ing of the LGBT com­mu­nity.

Pilcher feels the films per­fectly com­ple­ment each other.

“We are ex­cited to be able to show th­ese two films, es­pe­cially to­gether,” he says.

An­other film Pilcher feels is worth see­ing is “Koch.” The doc­u­men­tary deals with former New At­lanta Jewish Film Fes­ti­val Jan. 30 – Feb. 20 Var­i­ous area lo­ca­tions www.ajff.org York Mayor Ed Koch and his heated run-ins with var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing LGBT peo­ple. Koch him­self has long been ru­mored to be gay, although the film doesn’t an­swer that ques­tion.

“Out in the Dark” is the fes­ti­val’s LGBT nar­ra­tive fea­ture. It fol­lows the re­la­tion­ship of two young men whose back­grounds could af­fect their on­go­ing courtship. Two shorts films with LGBT themes — “The Seder” and “The De­vo­tion Project: Lis­ten From the Heart” — are also in the line-up.

The goal of the AJFF staff each year is never an ex­act at­ten­dance fig­ure, but they are cer­tainly aware that they are within reach of tak­ing over as the big­gest Jewish film fes­ti­val in the world. If and when that hap­pens, they will be ec­static but the main pri­or­ity each year is pre­sent­ing the best event they can and do­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate outreach, Pilcher says.

Var­i­ous film­mak­ers will be present for the fes­ti­val but at press time those weren’t con­firmed. A full lineup and sched­ule can be found at www.ajff.org

Above: Get tick­ets to the At­lanta Jewish Film Fes­ti­val early, as some screen­ings are al­ready sold out. ‘The De­vo­tion Project: Lis­ten from the Heart’ fol­lows a les­bian cou­ple from when they met through the birth of their son, who has a heart con­di­tion. (Pub­lic­ity photo) Be­low: On Sun­day, Feb. 10, the fes­ti­val screens ‘Joe Papp in Five Acts’ about the openly gay the­ater le­gend.

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