AJFF Announces First Wave of Films for the 2019 AJFF


Pictured above: Holy Lands, starring James Caan as a Jewish-American cardiologist who leaves everything behind to become a pig farmer in Israel.

We're thrilled to reveal a special preview of eight films to be included in the festival’s 2019 lineup. This year, dates are shifting slightly from years past, and will be Wednesday, February 6 through Tuesday, February 26, 2019. With a diverse compilation of over 70 accomplished international and independent films from over 20 countries, attracting nearly 40,000 moviegoers, the festival offers an expansive experience that takes audiences on a journey around the world through film. Audiences can expect a wide range of films on the roster, everything from personal narratives, unconventional perspectives, and documentaries, to comedies, dramas and more. The full lineup and official schedule will be announced on Thursday, January 10 and tickets will go on sale via AJFF.org beginning Monday, January 28.

“We are proud to bring compelling films to our community each year and provide a space for audiences to watch  these gripping films and gain new appreciation of the diverse realities of Jewish life around the world,” says AJFF Executive Director Kenny Blank. “These eight films reflect not only the Jewish experience, but the human experience writ large. There’s a deeper meaning to our lineup and to the festival as a whole, and we feel these films reflect that back to the Atlanta community.”

The films included in this early release speak to the diversity in theme and subject matter. The timely topic of hate speech is explored in Alt Right: Age of Rage; a family finding its way is portrayed in Family In Transition; comedies feature faces you know, like James Caan in Holy Lands; and the history of jazz and its German-American pioneers is highlighted in It Must Schwing! The Blue Note Story. Touching dramas take center stage again, too, in narratives like Redemption, the story of a father caught between his art and the love of his child. In keeping with AJFF’s programming philosophy, screenings often include discussions and chances to socialize with filmmakers, celebrity guests, community leaders and other experts.

More about the eight films is below:

Alt-Right: Age of Rage
Documentary • USA 

The rise and changing face of white nationalism is tracked and examined during the first year of the Trump presidency, as well as the counter-protests it has inspired, in Alt-Right: Age of Rage. Donald Trump’s improbable victory brought a previously hidden movement out of the fringe, at the center of which is white power leader Richard Spencer. On the other side is Daryl Lamont Jenkins, a black anti-fascist activist who will not rest until American racists are defeated. Culminating with first person accounts of the tragic events in Charlottesville, Alt-Right: Age of Rage is a hard-hitting exposé, investigating major players in the battle for America’s conscience.

Family in Transition
Documentary • Israel 

A family from a traditional Israeli town is forever changed after their father shares his desire to live his life as a woman, after 20 years of marriage, in Family in Transition. Amit’s wife, Galit, chooses to stay with her husband, keeping their family with four children together. This candid portrait reveals, in unflinching detail, the family's struggles against social stigma and other difficulties, as they try to maintain their equilibrium in light of Amit's transitioning. Shot over two years, Family in Transition delivers an emotional punch in its sensitive, intimate depiction of a courageous family facing the very personal realities of a hot-button topic. Best Israeli Film winner at the DocAviv Film Festival.

Fig Tree
Narrative • Israel 

A Jewish teenager attempts to navigate her emotional final days in war-torn Ethiopia before fleeing to Israel, in the harrowing coming-of-age story, Fig Tree. Sixteen-year-old Mina lives a surreal existence, surrounded by the natural beauty of her pastoral neighborhood in Addis Ababa, but also surrounded by the suffering of people torn asunder by the Ethiopian Civil War. Hiding nearby in a fig tree, her Christian boyfriend, Eli, does his best to avoid abduction by the military junta, as young men are conscripted into the army against their will. But time is running out for their romance, as Mina’s Jewish family plans their escape to Israel where the children’s mother awaits. So begins an inexorable march toward tragedy and separation, as Mina hatches a scheme to save Eli even as events conspire against her. Fig Tree is the directorial debut of Ethiopian-Israeli writer-director Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian, and is based on her own experiences growing up in Ethiopia and being airlifted to Israel as part of Operation Solomon. Nominated for five Israeli Academy Awards including Best Film, and winner for Best Cinematography. Best Film nominee at the Haifa International Film Festival, and Eurimages Audentia Award winner at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Holy Lands
Narrative • France 

James Caan, Rosanna Arquette and Jonathan Rhys Meyers star in Holy Lands, a family drama about a Jewish-American cardiologist who leaves everything behind to become a pig farmer in Israel. Though Dr. Harry Rosenmerck (Caan) tries to leave his former life behind, it is his wife (Arquette) with a terminally ill diagnosis, who brings his family back to the forefront, alongside his estranged son David (Meyers), a successful gay playwright, and his daughter Annabelle, a professional student. With humor and an all-star cast, writer and director Amanda Sthers presents a universal story of love and acceptance based on her critically acclaimed novel of the same name.

It Must Schwing!: The Blue Note Story
Documentary • Germany 

This is the moving story of two German-Jewish refugees who, united in their passion for music and a profound belief in equality, launched the careers of an impressive roster of African-American jazz stars. In 1939 New York City, two Jewish refugees from Berlin came together to found the most iconic jazz label in music history, Blue Note Records. Miles Davis, John Coltrane and countless others came through their doors to create indelible recordings that thrummed with improvisatory urgency. In an era when black musicians were subject to discrimination and segregation in NYC, Blue Note's founders, having emigrated to escape discrimination, saw kindred spirits and provided an outlet for their virtuosity. Relive this essential moment in music history, peppered throughout with artful animated re-creations.

Narrative • Israel 

A devout father fights to save both the life of his cancer-stricken daughter and his own musical dream in the spiritually rousing and thought-provoking Israeli drama Redemption. A middle-aged single widower carrying a heavy burden, Menachem earns a meager income as a grocery clerk. Having once fronted a rock-and-roll band until personal tragedy intervened, he now dedicates himself entirely to his faith. As he struggles to finance the formidable medical treatments for his six-year-old daughter, Menachem tries to persuade his former band-mates to reunite in hopes of raising some much needed cash. But is the singing career of his secular past compatible with his new Orthodox way of life? Best Actor and Ecumenical Jury award winner at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, and Audience Award winner at the Jerusalem Film Festival.

Who Will Write Our History
Documentary • USA 

A secret society of intellectuals carries out an extraordinary form of resistance in the diseased squalor of the Warsaw Ghetto, in Who Will Write Our History, the lesser known story of a heroic struggle to document the horrors of the Holocaust. In November 1940, days after the Nazis sealed 450,000 Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, a clandestine band of journalists, scholars and community leaders decided to fight back, determined to create a record that would survive the war even if they did not. Led by historian Emanuel Ringelblum (known by the code name Oyneg Shabes), this underground group vowed to defeat Nazi lies and propaganda with pen and paper. After the war, an extraordinary archive of letters, confessionals, last testaments, poems and questionnaires was retrieved from under the rubble, buried in milk cans and metal boxes. New interviews, rarely seen footage, and stunning dramatizations are combined with diary excerpts and narration by actors Adrien Brody and Joan Allen. Who Will Write Our History is the latest collaboration between executive producer Nancy Spielberg and writer-director Roberta Grossman, with support from the Righteous Persons Foundation. Audience Award winner for Best Documentary at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.

Working Woman
Narrative • Israel 

A young married Israeli mother starting her career in the high-end real estate business, faces issues of sexual harassment and financial strain, in Working Woman. Ambitious and capable thirty-something Orna (Liron Ben-Shlush) takes to her new job with zeal, working in condo sales for a prominent real estate developer, Benny (Menashe Noy). She thrives despite the challenges facing her at home, juggling three children and her husband’s struggling restaurant business. When Benny's attentions cross the line, Orna attempts to keep her boss at arm’s length while trying to keep the job she loves. In the era of #MeToo, award-winning feminist, activist, writer-director Michal Aviad’s nuanced portrayal of gray work-place scenarios is a thought-provoking insight into the world of sexual harassment.

More details will be announced closer to the festival, including selected films for Opening Night, Young Professionals Night presented by ACCESS, and Closing Night. And stay connected via social media on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram and use #AJFF2019.