The calendar has again flipped full circle to that time of year when metro Atlantans are given ample opportunity to soak up as much cinema as possible.
The 2014 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival opens today and runs through Feb. 20 at venues across the area.
Last year’s screenings drew more than 30,000 to host theatre houses and cineplexes. Members of the cultural platform’s leadership, hoping to entice even bigger crowds this go-round, are praising the progression of the fest’s 2014 iteration in scope and reach.
“Every year we strive to make the festival better for our audience,” said Kenny Blank, its executive director. “The 2014 [version] represents a huge leap forward in meeting the overwhelming demand and improving the quality of it.”
In all, 65 films — 52 features and 13 shorts — hailing from 20 countries received organizers’ seal of approval this time out.
Already the world’s second largest film series of its kind, the festival is expanding screenings by more than 25 percent.
“That means more opportunities for festival attendees to catch the hottest films and talk about them with their friends,” said Matthew Bernstein, programming co-chair of the 2014 event. “For years, the AJFF has been showing an international range of fascinating films — fiction and documentary — of the very highest quality. I am constantly amazed by how terrific the films are each and every year.”
Tonight’s offering, “Run Boy Run” — playing at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre near Vinings — is among the “many films” to single out for viewing, said Bernstein, who also serves as chair of the film and media studies department at Emory University in DeKalb County.
Films also will be shown at the Woodruff Arts Center and the Westside Cultural Arts Center in Midtown, United Artists Tara Cinemas 4 in Buckhead, Georgia Theatre Co. Merchants Walk in east Cobb, Regal Cinemas North Point Market 8 in Alpharetta, Lefont Sandy Springs and Regal Cinemas Atlantic Station Stadium 18.
“The Zigzag Kid” (“utterly charming”), “The Wonders” (“offbeat”) and documentary “The Prime Ministers” (“moving and informative”) are other titles afloat in a sea of contenders, Bernstein said.
Diversity, on-screen and in the seats, is yet another metric those behind the scenes at the festival point to as signpost of its evolution.
“Today, roughly one-quarter of our audiences are non-Jewish … but instead film lovers who want to see great international cinema and storytelling,” Blank said. “The diversifying of the festival is also reflected in the programming, which now includes a broader range of subjects and filmmaking styles. …”
During its formative years, the festival’s selected works, content-wise, were more narrowly focused on mainstay topics of Jewish life such as the Holocaust and Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This year’s lineup represents an array of subject matter — everything from architecture to standup comedy and survivors of sexual violence — and genres.
“We have sought to broaden the definition of ‘what makes a film Jewish,’” said Blank. “AJFF is [now] truly a feast of film with something for everyone.”
On the web:
To see the full list of films and show times, visit www.AJFF.org.