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Showing posts from January, 2015

Photos: 2,200+ Turn Out for Atlanta Jewish Film Festival's Opening Night

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The huge crowd awaits AJFF’s opening night presentation of “Above and Beyond.” For the third year in a row, the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Vinings served as the venue for the opening night gala and film presentation of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. Formerly held at the similarly sized Fox Theatre in Midtown, the Cobb Energy Centre’s large ballroom and 2,700+ seat capacity make for an exceptional space for the largest annual film event in Atlanta. Nearly a dozen of Atlanta’s finest restaurants catered the event, offering up custom dishes for the enthusiastic audience. Live music—presented by the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival—and an open bar aided in the festivities, which included several raffles, an interactive red carpet photo booth and lots of mingling with Atlanta’s movers and shakers. The film presentation was documentary “Above and Beyond,” which Christo reviewed earlier this week . Directed by Roberta Grossman (AJFF alum with 2013’s “Hava Nagila (The Movie)” ) and

AJFF Review: "Mr. Kaplan" (****)

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Héctor Noguera stars as Jacob Kaplan in “Mr. Kaplan” It is 1937 in Sosnowiec, Poland when young Yankev Kaplan becomes a man. Renamed for the heroic biblical patriarch, the new and improved Jacob Kaplan internalizes his rabbi’s charge to seize an “exceptional destiny” of his own. Sixty years after escaping WWII alone, 76-year-old Jacob (played by Héctor Noguera, a presence in South American television since the 1960s) begins to question whether the life he’s built in Uruguay has accomplished what his father dreamt for him. “Is the world a better place because of me? How useful was I?” He asks these questions not in futility, but in hope, recalling that the likes of Goethe, Churchill, and Abraham achieved great things in old age. And so we begin to wonder with him: Does Jacob Kaplan have time to make a difference? While watching the news one evening, Jacob learns of a WWII Nazi discovered hiding in Argentina and remembers something his granddaughter Lottie (played by the Rooney Mara-esqu

AJFF Review: "24 Days" (**½)

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Zabou Breitman stars as Ruth Halimi in “24 Days” Had I read anything about “24 Days” before pressing play, I might have avoided the ignorance I’ll now spare you: it’s a true story. On January 21, 2006, Ilan Halimi was kidnapped for ransom in Paris, France. His captors equated Jewish heritage with wealth, assuming the ransom would be easy to secure. But the Halimis, a secretary and a shop owner, are not rich, and the unsuccessful negotiations spanned—you guessed it—twenty-four days. By the time Ilan was released, he had been starved, tortured, burned, and beaten, his survival still at stake. In “24 Days,” Director Alexandre Arcady adapts the book Ilan’s mother cowrote about her family’s experience with the French police as they led an investigation blind to anti-Semitism. The film opens on acclaimed French actress Zabou Breitman. She introduces herself as Ruth Halimi and foretells the day her life “suddenly fell apart.” “How could something like this happen in Paris in 2006?” she says.

Atlanta Jewish Film Festival kicks off its 15th Edition with "Above and Beyond" (****)

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An image from “Above and Beyond.” Tonight, the 15th annual Atlanta Jewish Film Festival kicks off at the Cobb Energy Centre in Vinings. Following a luxurious gala event, a screening of “Above and Beyond” will play to an audience of several thousand. “Above and Beyond,” directed by Roberta Grossman and produced by Nancy Spielberg, tells the little-known story of the group of young men who volunteered to help create the Israeli Air Force following World War II. The documentary explores historical, factual happenings as told by the actual men involved. Filled with nostalgic disbelief and whole-hearted appreciation for one another, the men (now in their 70s and 80s) recall their experiences and walk us through this immensely important time in Jewish history. The outcome is a moving and engrossing story of bravery, loyalty and faith. The film opens with veterans Lou Lenart and Coleman Goldstein telling a story in which they fly themselves to Palestine after hearing about the unrest and thre

What to See at the 2015 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival

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Six continents are represented across dozens of narratives, documentaries and short films in this diverse program from the 15th edition of the Southeast’s largest film festival. Here are 23 films you need to see this year. In its 15-year history, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival has risen to the top of Georgia’s and the Southeast’s film festival circuits in terms of both attendees and expansive programming. Now spanning 25 days of film screenings at 7 venues—plus numerous parties—AJFF is one of the most well orchestrated and highly publicized events in the state each year. This year’s program offers the same great range in international Jewish or Jewish-interest films we’ve come to expect from the festival. You certainly don’t have to be Jewish to attend or to enjoy these films; the festival’s biggest hurdle being that of reaching beyond their obvious clientele. All that simply matters for you to enjoy AJFF is that you must like great films! Whether you check out Israel’s biggest hit f

Short Take: "Confusion Through Sand" is a Unique, Mesmerizing Experience in Animation

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“Confusion Through Sand” is one of the animated competition selections from the 2014 Atlanta Film Festival. The film comes from Ornana, a studio founded by native Georgians Danny Madden (director and animator of the film) and Benjamin Wiessner (producer). Previously, the guys produced “euphonia,” which turned out to be one of ATLFF 2013’s best films  and the perfect example of just how daring and beautiful a true Georgia indie film can be. “Confusion Through Sand” follows a nineteen-year-old who finds himself alone in a hostile desert, scared as hell and trained to react. Drawn entirely on recycled paper and featuring an intense soundscape, this film uniquely portrays a seldom-seen topic in animation—war. This week, “Confusion Through Sand” premiered on PBS as part of ITVS’ Independent Lens series. Now, the filmmakers are offering it up on Vimeo free of charge! Already a Staff Pick there, this is not one that you want to miss. Check it out below.

Review: "Two Days, One Night" (****½)

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Fabrizio Rongione and Marion Cotillard star in “Two Days, One Night” It was just two years ago at the Savannah Film Festival that I was floored by the power and emotional magnetism of both the film “Rust and Bone” and its lead performers, Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts. I was a fan of Cotillard before that (going back to when I saw her in “ La Vie en Rose ” at the 2007 Atlanta Film Festival, the first time I attended any film festival) and I’ve become an even bigger Cotillard fan since. Naturally, when I saw that the Dardenne Brothers’ film “Two Days, One Night” was playing at the Savannah Film Festival, I had a new top reason to attend. I admit to not being familiar with the Dardenne Brothers’ back catalog. I know they have won the Palm D’or twice and were highly buzzed to win it last year with “Two Days, One Night.” I know what films they have made, I just haven’t seen them. I went into this film with “Rust and Bone” on my mind and expectations of another masterful perform

Two Takes: "American Sniper" Review

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In our new review column, Cameron and Ali have a conversation and give both of their takes on Clint Eastwood’s latest film, which just earned six Academy Award nominations. Bradley Cooper stars as Chris Kyle in Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper.” Cameron: After three weeks in tremendously successful limited release, earning six Oscar nominations and a perfect storm of buzz and press interest, Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” opened up nationwide this weekend. I loved the film on many levels. What was your overall impression? Ali: Overall impression? I’d say this is a very heavy film. And I loved it, too. I really did, I wish I wasn’t in such a rush after the movie. That way, I could really soak in the feeling I was left with after this film. Particularly with regard to what it means to be a war hero, I felt the entire time Clint Eastwood was playing like a devil’s advocate of sorts. I didn’t know if he was glorifying or horrifying it. Cameron: I got the sense that Eastwood’s main go

#GAfilm Review: "Selma" (****½)

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A pivotal scene on the Pettus Bridge in Ava DuVernay’s “Selma.” “Selma,” at least for me, came out of nowhere. With so many great movies having come out of 2014—many of which helmed by respected auteurs—”Selma” just simply wasn’t on my radar. That is, until it began to make itself known. The film has been a contender in just about every awards race this season. The film is currently boasting a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, received nominations from the Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards, Critics Choice Awards, and received the Oglethorpe Award for Excellence in Georgia Cinema from our very own Georgia Film Critics Association . Even with all of this praise and hype, I was a bit reluctant to see what appeared to be another somewhat by-the-numbers, feel-good, Oprah-endorsed biopic. It turns out, however, “Selma” is absolutely fantastic. It isn’t showy or flashy, nor does it need to be. The beauty of “Selma” is in the way director Ava DuVernay chose to tell the story. The film opens in th

"Boyhood," "Nightcrawler" Win Big as Georgia Film Critics Split the Board

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Richard Linklater takes top honors for both Picture and Director; “Nightcrawler,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Selma” all take home two each. For their 4th annual awards presentation, the Georgia Film Critics Association have decided to distribute the love pretty evenly. Of the ten Best Picture nominees, nine of them took home at least one award. “Boyhood” took home the big prizes, Best Picture and Best Director for Richard Linklater. “Nightcrawler” won Best Actor for Jake Gyllenhaal and Best Original Screenplay for Dan Gilroy. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” won awards for Best Production Design and Best Ensemble. “Selma” won the Oglethorpe Award for Excellence in Georgia Cinema and Best Original Song for “Glory,” performed by John Legend and Common. Marion Cotillard won Best Actress for “Two Days, One Night,” while Tilda Swinton and J.K. Simmons took home Supporting prizes for Best Picture nominated films “Snowpiercer” and “Whiplash,” respectively. “Gone Girl” took home Best Adapted S

Georgia Film Critics Reveal Nominees for 2014 Awards

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“Birdman” narrowly leads nominations; “Ida,” “Nightcrawler,” “Snowpiercer,” “Under the Skin,” make a splash across the board. Most critics groups have had their say already, but the Georgia Film Critics Association doesn’t mind giving themselves time to think about their top picks of the year. This is their fourth year handing out best-of designations. “Birdman” leads the pack with seven nominations, but “Boyhood,” “Gone Girl,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and Georgia-lensed “Selma” are all close by with six mentions each (not counting the individuals mentioned for Breakthrough Award). Perhaps most noteworthy is the dominance of “Nightcrawler” (with five nods), “Snowpiercer” (with four nods) and “Ida” (with three nods)—all including Best Picture. Foreign films “Force Majeure” and “Two Days, One Night” pop up in the Best Actress category. Documentaries garner several mentions outside their own category, with “Sepideh” receiving a Foreign Film nod, “Life Itself” mentioned in Best Score, a