Top 10 reasons to attend the Atlanta Film Festival

Creative Director Kristy Breneman, and Shorts Programmer Christina Humphrey talk best bets

Whether your preference is ATLwood or Y’allywood, one thing we can all agree on is that Atlanta is a city that loves its movies. For the past four decades that show of support from area cinephiles has been at the heart of the Atlanta Film Festival. The 10-day, Academy Award–qualifying fest’s lineup consists of 62 feature-length films, and 91 shorts.

To help you navigate the run of screenings, panels, workshops, and visiting filmmakers, CL got ATLFF’s Creative Director Kristy Breneman and Shorts Programmer Christina Humphrey to offer their top 10 best bets with our own critical breakdown. Spoiler alert: There will be dragons.

10) Experience films by up-and-coming filmmakers before they are released, or that rarely make it to Atlanta theaters.

World premieres include Danielle Bernstein’s Imba Means Sing, a documentary that follows Moses and Angel, members of the Grammy-nominated African Children’s Choir of Uganda. Also be on the lookout for Danielle Beverley’s Old South, which explores racial tensions in Athens, Ga.

9) Take part in our dedication to Atlanta and its unique diversity by attending events all over the city.

Films at this year’s ATLFF will screen at the Plaza Theatre, 7 Stages, Fox Theatre, Woodruff Arts Center, and the Rialto. Let’s not forget to mention the Goat Farm Arts Center; over the past four years of partnership, ATLFF and the organization have joined forces on the art, music, and film experience that is Sound & Vision. This year’s Sound & Vision includes music from J-Live, and Hello Ocho, short films from Yaya Xu and Victoria Cook, as well installations pieces, and a music video competition.

8) Our 5-day Creative Conference

From Mon., March 23 to Fri., March 27, festival-goers can pick up some knowledge, resources, and inspiration on a vast array of film-related skills straight from real-world industry professionals. Translation: You can fine-tune your filmmaker chops in everything from screenwriting and lighting to 3-D printing and laser cutting for the budding animators out there.

7) Find out why Atlanta has been placed on the map in the film industry with the 30 Georgia-made, or directly tied, films we have as official selections.

Sure, ATL has the Hunger Games, Fast & Furious, “The Walking Dead“‘s of the world descending upon ITP and OTP, but some of the lesser-known best film and television talent, and future big names, are in our backyard. Whether you’re stopping in for a sneak peek at Georgia-filmed television productions such as SundanceTV’s “The Red Road,” (yes, ladies, that’s the show with Jason Momoa) and LeBron James’ “Survivor’s Remorse,” or locally tied feature flicks from Jiyoung Lee (Female Pervert), and W. Feagins Jr. (Divided Time), the field is as spread out as ATL’s neighborhoods.

6) James Franco

The festival’s opening night will present I Am Michael, a film based on the life of Michael Glatze (played by Franco), a gay activist who rejected his homosexuality to become a Christian pastor and husband. The film tells the story of Glatze, as he leaves his partner Bennett (Zachary Quinto) for a woman named Rebekah (Emma Roberts). Franco, who received an Academy Award nomination for his performance in 127 Hours, is slated to be in attendance on opening night, which is scheduled for Fri., March 20, at 7:30 p.m.

Closing night, however, will feature a new documentary from Magnolia Pictures: Sunshine Superman. In her directing debut, Marah Strauch showcases the life and career of Carl Boenish, or the “father of BASE jumping,” with a combination of actual footage and interviews with family and friends. Strauch will be in attendance on Sat., March 28, at 7 p.m. for the screening.

5) Check out innovative short films competing for Oscar qualification in the animation, documentary, and narrative categories.

Being that the ATLFF is also an Academy Award–qualifying festival, it’s no surprise that some prominent titles made their debut in Atlanta before catching Oscar’s attention. Last year’s ATLFF selections for narrative and animated short jury prizes, The Dam Keeper and Butter Lamp, both received nominations for the 87th Academy Awards. After debuting at the 2001 ATLFF, The Accountant went on to win Oscar gold at the 2002 awards show.

4) See programs produced in partnership with some of Atlanta’s most adored organizations in the arts community.

This list includes ASIFA-Atlanta, the Center for Puppetry Arts, WonderRoot, Contraband Cinema, and Splatter Cinema.

3) Did we mention we have dragons?

Although most fans will have already cleared their schedules for the Season 5 premiere of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” on Sun., April 12, a lucky group will need to grab their celebratory “GOT” beers early. Two weeks before the public air date, the Atlanta Film Festival and HBO have organized a sneak preview of the premiere. The screening, to be held at the Fox Theatre, will be on Sun., March 29, at 7:30 p.m. Free and open to the public, the 4,600-seat theatre will likely be completely full.

2) Not only can you see films from over 30 different countries, but also we’ll have filmmakers from six of the continents represented will be in attendance (excluding Antarctica ... we tried).

1) You should attend the 2015 Atlanta Film Festival because you love Atlanta. We are in our fourth decade and provide one of the most culturally diverse cinematic experiences you can have in our city.

‘Nuff said.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct selections and winners for last year’s ATLFF narrative and animated short jury prizes.