An entire month’s passed since the 43rd annual Atlanta Film Festival (ATLFF) brought together nearly 30,000 passionate filmmakers and cinephiles for 11 days of cultural discovery, artistic growth and opportunity. We gathered everywhere from the beautiful, sunlit fields of the BeltLine to the familiar comfort of the historic Plaza Theatre and enjoyed everything from creative films and shorts to groundbreaking experimental media, music videos and insightful discussions led by filmmakers from all over the world. The sheer number of things happening at any given moment forced attendees to pick and choose which events to attend at the cost of missing others.
For those who want to relive the festival or simply missed out, here are some ATLFF ‘19 highlights.
It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Georgia’s tax incentive may bring big-name, big-budget productions to our burgeoning Peach State, but our indigenous filmmaking community continues to create films worthy of acclaim. Of the record-setting 8,000+ films and screenplays submitted to this year’s festival, works created by Georgia filmmakers ranked among the finest. We were thrilled to showcase them during ‘It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,’ a block comprised entirely of short films created by Georgian filmmakers.
Filled with narrative, documentary, and animated films that left the entire Plaza Theatre enraptured, engaged, and inspired, the shorts were so great we watched them twice!
Opening Night Presentation: THE FAREWELL
If local filmmakers kicked off the festival, then writer/director Lulu Wang shifted the event into high gear. Anticipation for the opening night screening of THE FAREWELL built steadily as both Wang and lead actress Awkwafina made red carpet appearances.
After the iconic duo excitingly introduced the movie, THE FAREWELL immediately grasped the entire audience with its beautiful cinematography. However, the narrative was what truly kept us engrossed in the film throughout its 98 minute runtime. By juggling relatable themes of identity and cultural heritage with humor and wit, the film provided an authentic glimpse into a Chinese family's unique struggle to cope with the impending loss of a beloved family member.
Wang and Awkwafina returned to the stage after the film’s conclusion for an insightful Q&A; Wang divulged how her family inspired the film, and Awkwafina shared her on set experience with the crowd.
Georgia Film Award Winning Film: RECKONING
It was only the third day of the festival and the streets of Ponce and Highland came to halt when filmmakers Ruckus and Lane Skye graced the Plaza Theatre with their feature film, RECKONING. The line wrapped around the building with audience members lining up for the film hours before the start of the film. Ruckus and Lane along with the cast of the film arrived smoothly, just in time for some red carpet photos and interviews. Georgia is definitely proud to be the home of such talented and humble filmmakers.
Joe Berlinger Wins Inaugural Originator Award
Following up immediately after RECKONING, Joe Berlinger dropped in for an appearance. Before screening his new film, EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE, ATLFF presented its first ever Originator Award to director Joe Berlinger. With an illustrious filmography including the lauded and catalytic PARADISE LOST, the award celebrates Berlinger’s career in the spirit of originators like Burt Reynolds, Jermaine Dupri, and Tyler Perry--those who set out to do things unlike anything anyone’s ever done before. Humbly accepting the award, Berlinger unveiled his love for Atlanta and eventually dedicated the award to the late Bruce Sinofsky, with whom he managed to change the face of documentary filmmaking.
You can stream EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL, AND VILE on Netflix here.
Because there are so many factors and moving parts within the filmmaking process, there is always something new to learn. Creative Conference kicked off bright and early, Monday morning. Individuals looking to hone their craft at ATLFF ‘19 looked no further than the Creative Conference. Comprised of 40 educational events designed to disperse knowledge from the industry’s professionals to the aspiring filmmaker throughout the week, the conference covered nearly every stage of the process.
Through free-flowing conversations with actors, directors, and producers who’ve found success and panels supplying professional insight, we improved everything from our projects’ initial stories and pitches to their eventual licensing and distribution. The week was filled with gems from local filmmakers to Oscar and Emmy award winning producers.
The Satanic Temple Visits ATLFF
It’s not everyday you’re presented the opportunity to learn about the Satanic Temple from Satanists themselves, but this Wednesday was the day! HAIL SATAN?!, a delightfully off-kilter documentary feature by acclaimed documentarian Penny Lane, explores one of, if not the most controversial religious movements in American history. In chronicling the rise of the widely misunderstood Satanic Temple, the film sheds light on the religion’s true cause and noble intentions. Lane characterizes the Temple by characterizing its members, specifically Lucien Greaves. Greaves’ made-for-camera personality and Lane’s emphasis of irony inject the film with a humor that left the entire audience with split sides. However, the night didn’t end when the film did; once the credits rolled, members of the front row introduced themselves as part of the Atlanta Chapter of The Satanic Temple! Three stepped onto the Dad’s Garage stage to take questions from the audience, revealing a deeper, self-reflexive view of the Temple.
Having missed it during ATLFF ‘18, this year’s festival saw the mid-week event return with something for everyone. Complete with live performances from WHOAA and Jacob Velcoff, SOUND+VISION brought together virtual reality films, music videos, and food providing a near sensory overload. ATLFF took over! Free and open to the public along the Eastside Trail of the Atlanta BeltLine and the Historic Fourth Ward Park, the event provided an opportunity for families and friends to celebrate a wonderful evening with beautiful art and delicious food.
Awards Brunch Recap
Filmmakers from all over the globe gathered to receive awards and recognition for their tremendous films.
Best Narrative Feature – GREENER GRASS
Best Documentary Feature – THE FOURTH KINGDOM (EL CUARTO REINO)
Best Narrative Short - SIRENE
Best Documentary Short – KAMALI
Best Animated Short – HENRIETTA BULKOWSKI
Georgia Film Award – RECKONING
*For full list of awards click here.
Closing Night Presentation: THEM THAT FOLLOW
All good things must come to an end, and when they do, it’s usually depressing. Yet, the end of ATLFF ‘19 was more joyous than sad, because it brought with it the festival’s trademark closing night festivities. The 43rd annual Atlanta Film Festival concluded with a showing of THEM THAT FOLLOW. As the first feature film from writer/directors Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage, the star-studded film memorably closed out the already unforgettable festival.