The AJFF Film Evaluation Committee: How It Works


Perhaps the number one question we receive from Atlanta Jewish Film Festival fans each year is: How do you pick the movies? We'd like pull the curtain back a bit and share with you our process for selecting the outstanding final picks that comprise AJFF's annual film festival.

What Is the Film Evaluation Committee?

From the very beginning, the festival has sought to serve the broad community, and so it crafted an evaluation process that reflected that community. Rather than having a festival curated solely by one artistic perspective, we’ve invited a diverse and dedicated group of volunteers to evaluate film entries. Some are experts and scholars, some are filmmakers, and others are armed only with an appreciation for film and Jewish. 

What Does It Do?

Today, over 200 volunteers vet 500-600 films ahead of each festival. Their work yields more than 13,000 evaluations. The process lasts around six months from the initial call for entries until the final picks in late autumn. We believe every film deserves thorough consideration, so after evaluators have submitted their feedback, they gather every couple of weeks to discuss and debate which submissions to recommend for the final festival lineup. Ultimately, the committee suggestions are just that: suggestions. The final programming decisions are made by AJFF staff and our Executive Director, but no opinion goes unheard and each evaluator's viewpoint is highly valued. 

Who Runs the Committee?

We're proud to say we have some of the most esteemed and established community leaders helping to steer our volunteer committees. This year’s Film Evaluation Committee is chaired by two such individuals: Max Leventhal and Hazel Gold. Leventhal brings a long career in theater and arts programming to this work, including with the Alliance Theatre and the Woodruff Arts Center. Gold is Chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Emory University, where she is also a core professor in Emory’s Tam Institute for Jewish Studies.

AJFF staff is also present at evaluation meetings, as they'll ultimately make the final choices, and Executive Director Kenny Blank can always be found at the front of the room, helping to facilitate meetings.  

Catch a Glimpse at One of This Year's Meetings

Captured below is one of our many sessions where volunteers gathered recently to talk through the latest batch of AJFF film entries. We could not consider hundreds of films without their dedicated support.

As AJFF Film Programming Manager Shellie Schmals says, "I shudder to think what this process would look like without these devoted volunteers, who I have the great privilege of working with year after year. I am amazed by the cross section of community members and arts lovers, and how they come together over the medium of Jewish film."

2017 Film Evaluation Committee Meeting

If you would like to be involved in next year's Film Evaluation Committee or find out about other ways to volunteer with AJFF, please be sure to let us know here with our Volunteer Form