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By Matt Rodriguez

PREVIEW: The 2015 Atlanta Film Festival

Now in its fourth decade of existence, the Atlanta Film Festival celebrates all things cinema. With more than 20,000 attendees each year and 3,500 film submissions, it’s also one of the largest film festivals in the Southeast and one of the few that is Academy Award qualifying. To quote legendary news reporter Ron Burgundy, it’s kind of a big deal.


The 2015 Atlanta Film Festival aims to be bigger and better than ever with plenty of screenings, panels, and guest appearances for every film lover’s tastes. The festivities are set to kick off this week on Friday, March 20th and run all the way until the 29th. While it’s impossible for one person to see and do everything, here is what I’m looking forward to the most.


Atlanta Film Festival Exclusives


“What’s the Plan, Stan: The Logistics of Screenwriting”

Location: 7 Stages - Main Stage, March 23rd, 11:30am - 12:30pm

As someone who enjoys writing in all forms, screenwriting has always been the most intriguing to me. Every film starts the same; someone has to write the script. And then rewrite it, and rewrite it again until it’s perfect. Atlanta is quickly becoming the Hollywood of the South, and this is the perfect opportunity to learn from professionals on how to create that perfect script.


“Archer: Behind the Scenes”

Location: 7 Stages - Main Stage, March 24th, 1:30pm - 2:30pm

Archer has typically had a great presence in previous Atlanta Film Festivals and this year is no exception. Currently in its 6th season, the hilarious cult hit has shown no signs of slowing down. The talented artists at the Georgia-native Floyd County Productions plan to show clips from the show and provide a detailed behind-the-scenes look at how it’s produced. Any Archer fan would be wise not to miss this panel.



I Am Michael

Director: Justin Kelly

Location: The Plaza Theatre - Main Theatre, March 20th, 7:30pm

Kicking off this year’s Atlanta Film Festival is Justin Kelly’s I Am Michael starring James Franco, who is scheduled to be in attendance alongside producer Vince Jolivette. Franco, who’s no stranger to challenging roles, plays Michael Glatze, a gay activist who renounces homosexuality and becomes a Christian pastor. I Am Michael has made the rounds as a couple of film festivals already, so it’s a pleasure to see it be selected as the opener for the ATLFF.


Food on Film
Location: The Plaza Theatre - Main Theatre, March 22nd, 12:00pm

I went to last year’s Food on Film and had a great time watching a documentary on Sriracha and then eating various foods made with spicy hot sauce. This year’s event revolves around the film Blood, Sweat, and Beer and will feature a menu with beer inspired dishes. It’ll be difficult to top last year’s Sriracha popsicles from King of Pops, but  I cannot wait to see what they’ll come up with.


Game of Thrones: Season 5 Premiere
Location: The Fox Theatre, March 29th, 7:30pm

Getting to watch the first episode of Game of Thrones: Season 5 is great. Getting to see it at the Fox Theatre on the big screen two weeks before it airs on HBO is even better. ‘Nuff said.


Narrative Features


Christmas, Again
Director: Charles Poekel
Location: The Plaza Theatre - Upstairs Theatre, March 22nd, 6:30pm

Christmas comes early this year, but it’s not all sleigh bells and presents. Christmas, Again is a more melancholic take as one tree salesman spends the holiday alone. There is hope, though, when he meets a mysterious woman on a park bench one night.


The Editor

Directors: Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy

Location: The Plaza Theatre - Main Theatre, March 21st, 9:45pm

A film editor with four wooden fingers is framed for murder when all the actors from his latest project are found dead. If that doesn’t sound like a good murder mystery then I don’t know what does.



Director: Peter Blackburn

Location: The Plaza Theatre - Upstairs Theatre, March 28th, 12:15pm

OCD takes center stage in what Calvin Su describes as a “meticulously constructed, one-shot narrative.” I am mostly intrigued by a film that revolves around a cycle of eights and how we’ll see that presented on screen.



Funny Bunny

Director: Alison Bagnall

Location: The Plaza Theatre - Main Theatre, March 21st, 7:30pm

The description for Funny Bunny has a more serious tone to it and doesn’t sound funny at all. I have a feeling that the film with hit audiences with a one-two punch of drama with a little bit of comedy thrown in.


Good Grief Suicide Hotline

Director: Sam Carter

Location: The Plaza Theatre - Main Theatre, March 23rd, 9:30pm

Crisis Hotline films are in hot demand, with the subject winning both the “Best Documentary – Short Subject” and “Best Live Action Short Film” at this year’s Academy Awards. It’s also one of the last subjects you expect to see a dark comedy about, which makes me all the more interested to see it.


The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards

Directors: Mark Columbus, Lauren Hoekstra, Sarah Kruchowski, Ryan Moody, Simon Savelyev, Vanita Shastry, Shadae Lamar Smith, Jeremy White

Location: TBA

The film is a series of vignettes based on short stories by Robert Boswell starring Kristen Wiig, Matthew Modine, Amber Tamblyn, Jimmy Kimmel, and Kate Mara. You had me at Kristen Wiig.


The Keeping Room

Director: Daniel Barber

Location: The Plaza Theatre - Main Theatre, March 26th, 9:30pm

War films are often times about soldiers on the frontlines or the people working behind the scenes. The Keeping Room is about a family that is left behind when a father and brother go off to fight in the Civil War.



Love & Mercy

Director: Bill Pohlad

Location: The Plaza Theatre - Upstairs Theatre, March 29th, 12:15pm

Paul Dano and John Cusack star as younger and older versions of Brian Wilson, the co-founder and leader of The Beach Boys, in this biopic. While I think The Beach Boys are okay, I’m more a fan of Dano’s work and can’t wait to see him tackle this character alongside Cusack.


Movement and Location

Director: Alexis Boling

Location: The Plaza Theatre - Main Theatre, March 22nd, 2:00pm

There doesn’t seem to be anything special about Kim Getty, who is living quite the normal like in Brooklyn. That is until you find out that she’s from 400 years in the future. The question I have is how bad must the future be for a person to want a one-way ticket into the past?



Director: Sam

Location: The Plaza Theatre - Upstairs Theatre, March 20th, 9:45pm

A Spanish animated film that deals with death, depression, and possession. Sign me up!


The Sideways Light

Director: Jennifer Harlow

Location: The Plaza Theatre - Upstairs Theatre, March 21st, 9:30pm

A daughter cares for her ailing mother when supernatural occurrences start happening in their house. I’ve had a psychological horror itch for a while now, and I’m hoping that The Sideways Light can scratch it.


The Tribe

Director: Miroslav Slaboshpitsky

Location: The Plaza Theatre - Main Theatre, March 22nd, 9:15pm

A new student joins the school’s gang, only to fall in love with one of his female classmates who also happens to be an escort for said gang. Oh, and did I mention that the film uses a cast of deaf actors and is completely in sign language with no subtitles?



While We’re Young

Director: Noah Baumbach

Location: The Plaza Theatre - Main Theatre, March 25th, 7:00pm

While We’re Young is a coming-of-middle-age story starring Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as a couple who must learn how to act their own age if they want this relationship to work. They are joined by another young couple, played by Amanda Seyfried and Adam Driver.


Documentary Features


Dante’s Down the Hatch

Director: Jef Bredemeier

Location: The Plaza Theatre - Main Theatre, March 29th, 4:30pm

I never actually had the pleasure of eating at Dante’s Down the Hatch, the restaurant where you could eat in a pirate ship and watch crocodiles, but living in Atlanta made it impossible not to hear about it. It’ll be interesting to see this swan song for an Atlanta landmark.



Frame by Frame

Directors: Alexandra Bombach, Mo Scarpelli

Location: The Plaza Theatre - Upstairs Theatre, March 23rd, 9:00pm

This documentary follows four Afghan photojournalists as they looked down a lens of a camera in a country where photography had been banned by the Taliban.


The Long Start to the Journey

Director: Chris Gallaway

Location: The Plaza Theatre - Main Theatre, March 23rd, 7:15pm

I’ve been on portions of the Appalachian Mountain trail, and it is absolutely gorgeous. No doubt this documentary that follows one person’s hike from the beginning to the end will be just the same.


Short Blocks


Animation Short Block

Location: 7 Stages Theatre, March 24th, 9:00pm

Animation has always presented an infinite number of styles and techniques used to tell amazing stories. Topics in this year’s animation block range from cowardly dogs and a skeleton’s day in hell to drive-in theaters and a mysterious bar in the woods. Without a doubt, there’s something for everyone



New Mavericks Short Block

Location: The Plaza Theatre - Main Theatre, March 28th, 12:00pm

One of the first announcements from the Atlanta Film Festival was its 10 Films by Women, but they’re not stopping with just narrative and documentary features. The New Mavericks Short Block explores a handful of shorts that feature strong female leads directed by strong female filmmakers from across the globe. You won’t find a better diversity of films than at the Atlanta Film Festival.


The above is just a small taste of what the Atlanta Film Festival has to offer over the course of 10 days. It’s also just the films that caught my eye the most after only reading a synopsis. I’ll no doubt spend time watching more movies than what’s just above and finding the hidden surprises. That’s all part of the fun of film festivals. You never know what to expect. The only guarantee is that you’ll have a great time.