imageA number of gay-themed and gay-friendly features highlights the 11th annual Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. The event, which in a short time has become the largest film festival in the city, opens Tuesday.

In a few short years, the festival has become not only the biggest film festival Atlanta, but the second largest Jewish-themed festival in the country. This year’s event lasts almost three weeks and includes venues all over town – among them the Regal Atlantic Station, Lefont Sandy Springs and the Fox Theatre. The festival is also known for its diversity. This year, one of the highest profile LGBT films at the festival is “Gay Days” (top photo) an interesting and comprehensive documentary from Yair Qedar, the editor of the gay newspaper Pink Times.

“Gay Days” traces the evolution of the gay and lesbian movement in Israel from the mid ‘80s, when there were three openly gay folks in the country, to the late ‘90s when there were more than 3,000 out and proud Israelis. In the film, Qedar talks to various men and women about their experiences and perspectives. One of his subjects is director Eytan Fox, who made the sexy gay-themed political drama/romance “The Bubble.” An interesting moment occurs when TV executives question a full-on gay male kiss on Fox’s TV show, even in more progressive times.

imageIn the charming “Paris Return” (second photo), an elderly male couple living in Paris debates where they should live out the rest of their lives. Reoven and Pierluigi have been together for most of their lives, and as one of them appears to be facing death, conversations rise up about returning to Israel, despite anti-gay sentiment there.

“Paris” is made by Reoven’s nephew, who has almost unlimited access to the pair. It’s not plot-heavy, but the men come across as an authentic couple. They may bicker at times, but the love and respect is apparent. Even in their 60s and 70s, the men attempt to live life to the fullest, not above even rolling a joint from time to time.

The subject of “The Socalled Movie” is Josh Dolgin, also known as the gay Canadian artist Socalled, who became famous after his single “You Are Never Alone” appeared on YouTube. His music style is described as traditional mixed with modern touches such as hip hop, salsa, gospel and funk.

imageVidal Sassoon is apparently not gay, but he is certainly an icon in the LGBT community. “Vidal Sassoon: The Movie” (bottom photo) traces Sassoon (left) from his beginnings in a London orphanage to a revolutionary figure in the hairdressing world.

Among other films of interest: retrospective screenings of the Academy Award winner “Chariots of Fire” and the animated “An American Tail.” Tickets to screenings tend to go quickly, so it’s advised to buy early.

The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival opens Feb. 8 and runs through Feb. 27. Visit the festival website for detailed schedules, tickets and more information.

imageJim Farmer is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and public relations professional specializing in film promotions. He has been a theater and pop-culture critic for more than a dozen years and is the director of Atlanta’s annual Out On Film gay and lesbian film festival.