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30th Annual Buffalo International Jewish Film Festival May 15-21 - Amherst Dipson Theatre, 3500 Main Street, and May 31 - June 7 - JCC Theatre In Getzville, NY

© by Mike Keenan

The 30th annual Buffalo International Jewish Film Festival - the third longest running festival of its kind in North America - will present 18 award winning and critically acclaimed films from around the world including Argentina, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Poland, South Africa, USA and Venezuela.

Films include:
RUN BOY RUN - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2glYxp4jw0 Germany, France / 2014 / 107 minutes / Polish, German, Russian, Yiddish / Director: Pepe Danquart
A superlative saga of courage and compassion, RUN BOY RUN tells the extraordinary true survival story of a Polish boy who seeks the kindness of others in his solitary struggle to outlast the Nazi occupation and keep alive his Jewish faith. An unforgettable cinematic experience featuring exceptional performances, arresting cinematography and transcendent musical score, RUN BOY RUN is directed by Oscar-winner Pepe Danquart and based on the bestselling Holocaust novel by Israeli author Uri Orlev. Audience Award winner at 2014 Boston Jewish Film Festival - Genre: Action | Drama | War Rating: NR (PG-13 equiv)

24 DAYS - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sg4xo2pYRdI
France/ 2014/ 108 minutes/French/ Director: Alexandre Arcady
Racial prejudice, anti-Semitism, or hatred of anyone with different beliefs has no place in the human mind or heart. - Billy Graham. In January of 2006 a beautiful young woman walks into a Parisian cell phone shop, looks around, and asks for the sales attendant's number. Later, she calls asking to meet. Who could have known Ilan, the 23 year old man, was flirting with death? The next time his family hears from him is through a cryptic online message from kidnappers demanding ransom. Winner of the Lia Award for films dealing with Jewish heritage - Jerusalem Film Festival 2014 - Genre: Drama, Rating: NR (PG-13 equiv)

THE OUTRAGEOUS SOPHIE TUCKER - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyUlZm4O4yE
USA/ 2014/ 96 minutes/English/Director: William Galecki.
The rags to riches story of Sophie Tucker, an iconic superstar who ruled the worlds of vaudeville, Broadway, radio, television, and Hollywood throughout the 20th century. Before Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Bette Midler, Marilyn Monroe, and Mae West, Sophie Tucker was the first woman to infatuate her audiences with a bold, bawdy and brassy style unlike any other. Genre: Documentary | Biography Rating: PG

SOFT VENGEANCE: ALBIE SACHS AND THE NEW SOUTH AFRICA - http://www.softvengeancefilm.com/trailer/
South Africa, USA/2014/ 84 minutes/English/Director: Abby Ginzberg
Albie Sachs: anti-apartheid activist, lawyer, and South African Constitutional Court Judge. Imprisoned, tortured, exiled, blown up by a car bomb…and still he fought for justice and reconciliation. As a young man, Albie Sachs defended those committed to ending apartheid in South Africa. For his actions as a lawyer, he was imprisoned in solitary confinement in Cape Town, tortured through sleep deprivation and forced into exile. In 1988 he was blown up by a car bomb set by the South African security forces in Maputo, Mozambique, which cost him his right arm and the sight of one eye, but miraculously he survived and eventually recovered. Returning to South Africa following the release of Nelson Mandela, Sachs helped write the groundbreaking new constitution and was appointed by President Mandela as one of the first eleven judges of the new Constitutional Court. People's Choice Award from the Vancouver South African Film Festival Audience Award for Best International Documentary from the Encounters Film Festival in South Africa. Genre: Documentary | Biography | History. Rating: PG

JOACHIM PRINZ: I SHALL NOT BE SILENT - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Hw8N2XF6Hk
USA/ 2014/ 57 minutes/ English/ Directors: Rachel Fisher, Rachel Pasternak
Joachim Prinz: I Shall Not Be Silent is a film about the power of a voice for justice. In 1930's Berlin, Prinz was a young rabbi as the Hitler regime was rising to power. As civil rights of Jews were systematically being stripped away, Prinz strived to restore the self-esteem of the German Jews. Although the Nazis monitored his sermons, and despite repeated arrests, Prinz continued to preach, urging Jews to leave Germany. Expelled from Germany in 1937, Prinz arrived in the United States and was horrified to witness racism against African Americans. Prinz became a leader of the civil rights movement and spoke at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 right before Martin Luther King gave his "I Have A Dream" speech. Throughout his career, Prinz spoke out for justice, unconcerned with the popularity of his positions. Genre: Documentary | Biography | History. Rating: PG

ABOVE AND BEYOND - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaop3PIG3Lg
USA, UK, Israel/ 2014/90 minutes/ English/ Director: Roberta Grossman
In 1948, just three years after the liberation of Nazi death camps, a group of Jewish American pilots answered a call for help. In secret and at great personal risk, they smuggled planes out of the U.S., trained behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia, and flew for Israel in its War of Independence. This ragtag band of brothers not only turned the tide of the war; they also embarked on personal journeys of discovery, sacrifice and renewed Jewish pride. Genre: Documentary / Adventure / History. Rating: NR (PG-13 equiv)

THE LADY IN NUMBER 6 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrXHcQyixTE
Canada, USA, UK/ 2014/ 39 minutes/English/ Director: Malcolm Clarke
The Lady In Number 6 is one of the most inspirational and uplifting stories of the year. 109 year old, Alice Herz Sommer, the world's oldest pianist and Holocaust survivor shares her story on how to achieve a long and happy life. She discussed the importance of music, laughter and how to have an optimistic outlook on life. Academy Award 2014 for Best Documentary - Short Subjects Genre: Documentary | Short | Biography | Drama | Music. Rating: PG

BENEATH THE HELMET - http://www.beneathhelmet.com/the-film/
Israel/ 2014/ 85 minutes/English,Hebrew/Director: Wayne Kopping
Beneath the Helmet: From High School to the Home Front is a coming-of-age story which follows the journey of five Israeli high school graduates who are drafted into the army to defend their country. At the age of 18, away from their homes, families and friends these young individuals undergo a demanding, inspiring journey, revealing the core of who they are, who they want to be. Genre: Documentary | Drama. Rating: NR (PG equiv)

HANNA’S JOURNEY - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqmvGGgreHA
Germany/ 2013/100 minutes/German, English, Hebrew/Director: Julia von Heinz
Hanna is a young German woman who goes to Israel in order to push her career by working with disabled people. Italy, the Israeli social worker, picks on her with Holocaust jokes and cynical comments on German history, whilst obviously flirting with her. She initially reacts with rejection, but after a while Hanna becomes interested in her family's history, and also in Italy. Genre: Romance | Comedy. Rating: NR (PG-13 equiv)

GOD'S SLAVE - https://vimeo.com/65262544
Argentina, Venezuela/ 2013/90 minutes/Spanish/Director: Joel Novoa
Motivated by personal tragedies, two obsessive characters on either side of the Arab-Israeli conflict are set on a collision course in GOD'S SLAVE, an adrenaline-rushing drama set against the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Argentina. Filmed on location in Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay and the United States, the taut action is skillfully helmed by Venezuelan filmmaker Joel Novoa. Genre: Drama | Thriller. Rating: NR (PG-13 equiv)

FOR A WOMAN - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceKADrpuCOs
France/ 2013/110 minutes/French/Director: Diane Kurys
A daughter digs up her parents' old WWII-era memories, a clandestine love affair, and secrets about her own origins in FOR A WOMAN, a time-shifting melodrama from veteran writer-director Diane Kurys. Handsome widescreen cinematography, a resplendent score and gorgeous period costumes make FOR A WOMAN a sumptuous tale of romance and suspense. Genre: Drama | Romance. Rating: NR (PG-13 equiv)

THE DOVE FLYER (FAREWELL BAGHDAD) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_Uq68Ql9f8
Israel/ 2013/105 minutes/Arabic/Director: Nissan Dayan
Based on the autobiographical novel by Eli Amir, this sweeping epic recalls a lost and cherished time when over 125,000 Jews lived in Iraq. We follow the teenage Kabi as he navigates the final years of the community's existence in Iraq, before its expulsion and resettlement to 1950s Israel. When his uncle Hizkel is imprisoned, Kabi sets off to find him, joining the Zionist underground movement. The film beautifully illustrates the complex existence of the Jewish community in Iraq, which had strong ties to the surrounding Muslim world and Arabic culture, yet simultaneously feared for its safety. Genre: Drama. Rating: NR (PG-13 equiv)

ADVANCED STYLE - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWKTfqivbRQ
USA/ 2014/72 minutes/English/Director: Lina Plioplyte
Advanced Style examines the lives of seven unique New Yorkers whose eclectic personal style and vital spirit have guided their approach to aging. Based on Ari Seth Cohen's famed blog of the same name, this film paints intimate and colorful portraits of independent, stylish women aged 62 to 95 who are challenging conventional ideas about beauty, aging, and Western's culture's increasing obsession with youth. Genre: Documentary | Biography | Comedy. Rating: PG

BROKEN BRANCHES - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ssq1PyA2n0
Israel/ 2014/25 minutes/Hebrew/Director: Ayala Sharot
Broken Branches is an animated documentary about loss, family and hope. Michal Rechter was only 14 years old when, on the eve of the Second World War, she left her family in Poland and travelled to Israel. Now, at the age of 92, she tells her story to her granddaughter, the film's director, who brings her grandmother's memories to life in colorful animation. Genre: Documentary / Short / Biography / Animation. Rating: NR (PG equiv)

THE RETURN - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNR4ER9tC6A
U.S., Poland/ 2014/83 minutes/English, Polish/Director: Adam Zucker
Before World War Two, Poland's 3.5 million Jews made the country the epicenter of the Jewish world. Today less than 20,000 Jews live there. Due to the Holocaust and ensuing Soviet era, Poland's remaining Jews hid their identity from their children. With the fall of Communism in 1989 a young generation of Jews began learning their long-buried ancestry. The Return focuses on four women in their 20's who face the unique challenge of trying to create an identity in a vacuum, with little knowledge of their heritage. The Return depicts their valiant efforts at creating a new, authentic Jewish community in a country still regarded in the U.S. as the "Jewish graveyard." Genre: Documentary/History/Biography. Rating: NR (PG equiv)

50 CHILDREN: THE RESCUE MISSION OF MR. AND MRS. KRAUS - http://www.7thart.com/films/50-Children
U.S./ 2014/63 minutes/English/Director: Steven Pressman
Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus never intended to become heroes. But in early 1939, as conditions were worsening for Jews living inside Nazi Germany, the Philadelphia couple embarked on a risky and improbable mission - an effort to rescue 50 Jewish children and bring them to safety in the United States. The couple faced imposing obstacles. The United States government, not to mention a vast majority of the American public, was largely indifferent to the plight of Jewish refugees seeking to escape from Adolf Hitler's increasing persecution. America's rigid immigration laws also made it nearly impossible to bring refugees - even children - into this country. Genre: Documentary / History. Rating: PG. WINNER: Audience Award, Best Film - Charlotte Jewish Film Festival EMMY Nomination - Outstanding Historical Programming

SOSUA: MAKE A BETTER WORLD - http://www.sosuafilm.com/
USA/ 2012/60 minutes/English/Directors: Peter Miller, Renee Silverman
In the pantheon of evil dictators, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic ranks not far below Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin. However, unlike those who tried to destroy the Jews, - or even the leaders of Western democracies who ignored their plight, - Trujillo offered sanctuary to those who reached his island nation. This hour-long film tells how Dominican and Jewish teenagers in New York's Washington Heights neighborhood, who, together with the legendary theater director Liz Swados (formerly of Buffalo, New York), put on a musical about the Dominican Republic's rescue of 800 Jews from Hitler. Genre: Documentary / History / Music. Rating: PG

USA/ 2013/58 minutes/English/Director: Marc Shaffer
Where else in America can you find a major city which has named its new football stadium after a 19th century Jewish dry goods businessman? Which elected a Jewish woman Mayor (and who subsequently became a 4 term U.S. Senator)? Which in the 1850's had two of its prominent Jewish citizens placed on the State Supreme Court, and which in the 1890's elected to Congress a Jewish lawmaker (for 6 terms)? Not New York City, Chicago, or Philadelphia! But why in San Francisco? Genre: Documentary / History. Rating: PG

Films will be shown May 15-21 at the Amherst Dipson Theatre, 3500 Main Street and May 31 - June 7 AT JCC's Maxine and Robert Theatre, 2640 North Forest Road in Getzville, NY. Trailers, schedules and ticket purchasing at www.bijff.com or either JCC location or by calling 716-204-2084.


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Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune, Niagara Falls Review and Seniors Review, Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Geographic Traveler, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine.

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