AJFF Announces 2020 Opening and Closing Night Films

12/16/2019

Pictured above: Shared Legacies: The African-American Jewish Civil Rights Alliance

The full lineup for the 2020 AJFF will be unveiled on January 10 and we can't wait for you to see everything in store for this year! But, as in years past, we've got something extra special planned for our Opening, Closing, and Young Professionals Nights. We thought we'd fill you in a little early on these films.

Opening Night (Monday, February 10)

Shared Legacies: The African-American Jewish Civil Rights Alliance 
World Premiere 
Documentary • USA • 95 minutes 

The crucial historical lessons of Black-Jewish cooperation are revisited and revived in this utterly fascinating, urgent call to action.

The modern alliance between African-Americans and Jewish Americans dates to the NAACP founding in 1909. Since then, both groups have endured segregation and racism, from the codified bigotry of southern Jim Crow laws, to blatant bias in real estate, employment, higher education and politics.

Common cause was found in the turbulent ‘60s Civil Rights era, as Jewish leaders backed Dr. King’s efforts at racial equality and harmony. Yet, the relationship has frayed in recent years, as a once mighty bond of support and respect has seemingly faded, been forgotten or ignored. 

Pivotal events come alive through a treasure trove of archival materials, narrated by eyewitnesses, activists, Holocaust survivors, and leaders of the movement, including prominent Atlantans such as Congressman John Lewis, Amb. Andrew Young, Rabbi Alvin Sugarman, Rabbi Peter S. Berg, Oscar-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr., members of the King family, and many others.

With divisive seeds of hate taking root anew in the American landscape, a new generation also affirms their pledge to actively promote the values of social justice.

This potent, inspiring story of unity, empathy and partnership validates the ubiquity of the human experience, and how freedom and equality for all can be achieved only when people come together. 

Opening Night general admission tickets are available for $36 and include complimentary parking as well as the screening and post-film Q&A. 

Closing Night (Thursday, February 27)

Saul & Ruby, To Life!  
Documentary • USA • 80 minutes 

An inseparable pair of sprightly Holocaust survivors brings their tuneful call for peace and healing from assisted living facilities in Florida to the world stage, in this uniquely uplifting tribute to the human spirit.

Launching a late-in-life musical career from total obscurity, Saul Dreier was 89 when he picked up drumsticks and founded the Holocaust Survivor Band. Everyone, including his wife and rabbi, thought he was crazy. But Saul had a dream: to share the music that sustained him during his internment in concentration camps.

Along with accordion player Ruby Sosnowicz, the klezmer duo performed in Jewish community and retirement centers around Florida, laying on the charm with small but enthusiastic audiences. With their joyful sound and infectious love of living, Saul and Ruby soon took their music, their stories, and their message of strength and friendship to larger venues across the country.

With anti-Semitic rhetoric on the rise, Saul and Ruby wanted their untrained voices to be heard more than ever. So they set about making an enduring vision come true: to bring their music back to where both men suffered painful loss, their birthplace of Poland, to honor their own families and the countess other mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who suffered and died there.

Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning documentarian Tod Lending expertly weaves comedy and tragedy in this charming, poignant and, above all, affirmative celebration of family, friendship, heartache, resilience and hope. 

Tickets are $36 and include complimentary parking, the screening, a post-film Q&A and performance, plus a dessert reception.  

Young Professionals Night, Presented by ACCESS (Saturday, February 15)

Standing Up, Falling Down 
Narrative • USA • 91 minutes

Emmy-winner Ben Schwartz (NBC's Parks and Recreation) and the legendary Billy Crystal, topline this bittersweet, warmly funny buddy comedy about an unlikely intergenerational friendship between a struggling stand-up comic and an older, disillusioned barfly.

After years of trying and failing to break into the Los Angeles comedy scene, thirty-something Scott (Schwartz) reluctantly moves back in with his parents (Kevin Dunn and Debra Monk) on Long Island, tail between his legs. Wracked with self-doubt and panicked at the prospect of having to get a soul-crushing "real" job, he soon realizes that life did not stand still without him. Not only have all his friends moved on to start families of their own, he must face unresolved emotions toward his hometown ex-girlfriend, Becky (Eloise Mumford), now happily married.

But he encounters a surprising kindred spirit in Marty (Crystal, playing decidedly against type), a larger-than-life, charming but desperately lonely dermatologist obsessed with karaoke and swigging away his troubles every night at the local bar. Before long, the two drinking buddies form a real bond over their shared feelings of loss, remorse and inadequacy. As Scott works to overcome his fear of pursuing his dreams and returning to the stage, together they find the strength to address their long festering regrets.

Buoyed by the easy-going chemistry between Schwartz and Crystal, and powered by a top-notch supporting cast that includes Grace Gummer and Nate Corddry, the simple pleasures of this heart-and-soul comedy are a reminder that redemption can be found in the unlikeliest of places. 

Tickets are $36 and include a pre-screening party. 

In Case You Missed It...

Take a look at our sneak peek of some other films that will be a part of the festival this year. Stay tuned for the full lineup reveal on January 10!