“It’s quite unbelievable,” said cinema owner George Lefont. “Some people spend the whole day here and see two or three movies back to back.”
Jan Epstein, a member of the festival steering committee, said her work is also her pleasure.
“It’s so much fun,” she said. “I hang out, whether they want me to or not.”
Behind the scenes, Epstein said work goes on feverishly to present a smooth, professional experience at all six of the festival’s theaters.
“We’ve streamlined everything we do. All of our volunteers in any capacity have gone through a training process. With the ushers, even the microphone handlers are trained,” she said about facilitators at post-screening discussions.
Even the 65-member, wait-listed selection committee gets schooled in how to select 70 moving pictures from 400 applicants.
“We want it mission-oriented of building bridges but we don’t want to be afraid of taking on some challenges,” Epstein said. “We’re looking for the best films that we think are worthy of showing here and that will attract our audiences, both Jewish and non-Jewish, multi-culturally.”
Festival executive director Kenny Blank said successful festival entries cover a wide range of subjects.
“We define a Jewish film as broadly as possible to encourage a highly diverse lineup of films that cover an array of topics and genres, and appeal to a broad cross-section of the community, Jewish and non-Jewish alike,” he said. “Some themes are obvious, such as the Holocaust or Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In other films, the Jewish content may be more abstract but still plays an integral part of the story.”
Stories, conflicts, drama and comedy all add up to entertainment for everyone, Blank said.
“Nearly one-quarter of our audience is non-Jewish. They are movie buffs who come just to catch these amazing films that would otherwise never be seen in Atlanta,” he said. “They want to be taken on a journey to see other cultures.”
However, with Lefont showings like “David,” about a Muslim boy, and the boxing-champ biopic “Max Schmeling” sold out in advance, Blank advised attendees to take action before enjoying the results of lights and cameras.
“Reserve your tickets early,” he said.