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Buffalo International Jewish Film Festival opens May 6

The Buffalo International Jewish Film Festival is the third oldest continuously running festival of its kind in the United States – three years behind San Francisco’s, and only one year behind Philadelphia’s.

The 31st annual festival will present 10 films from May 6 to May 12 in the Dipson Amherst Theatre (3500 Main St.).

“I think all of the films are exceptional,” said Michael Silverman, who has for the past 11 years chaired the committee for the Jewish Community Center that selects the films. “They are high quality, very diverse and unusual.”

The festival’s big event will be a May 7 screening of “Deli Man,” a film that had a brief run in April 2015 at the North Park Theatre.

A catered deli meal with a choice of beer or wine will be provided with the movie for $36, $50 for patrons. Tickets for all other movies are $10.

“The film should be very well received,” Silverman said. “It’s a very enjoyable film, and very informative about what happened to the neighborhood deli.

“I grew up in Brookline (Mass.), and every corner there was a delicatessen,” Silverman said. “They virtually disappeared. There are like 150 kosher delis left in North America where there used to be thousands.”

Silverman also is excited to be offering “In Silence.”

“This one really knocked me out artistically. The film follows a concert pianist, a young ballerina and others in the arts and what their life was like during the 1930s in Europe. Gradually, they have their livelihoods taken away, and the film gets darker and darker,” Silverman said.

“At the end, they show a long list of all the great artists and writers and professional people in the arts who suffered because they weren’t allowed to practice their profession.”

“Gett: the Trial of Viviane Ansalem” is about the hurdles of obtaining a divorce in Israel. It’s an Israeli, France and German co-production, and won the 2014 Ophir Award for best Israeli film. The showing at 3 p.m. May 8 will be followed by a panel discussion with Rabbis Alex Lazarus Klein, Perry Netter and Josh Strausberg.

Silverman is also high on the British picture “Hunting Elephants,” a comedy crime caper with Patrick Stewart and popular Israeli character actors Sasson Gabai and Moni Moshonov.There also is the comedy “Dough,” about what happens when a kosher baker’s assistant accidentally drops his marijuana into the challah dough, triggering a run on the popular Sabbath bread.

“ ‘Dough’ is a real crowd-pleaser,” Silverman said. “It has a big name in it – Jonathan Pryce, it is heartwarming, and one I know our audience will love. We try to get lighter films to go with the more serious ones.”

Last year, 1,640 people attended the festival’s 20 films. Silverman said the need still exists for a Jewish film festival in Buffalo.

“As long as we have a Jewish community here, there is still a demand. As long as the JCC wants to keep it going and the people who want to work on the committee are there, we’ll keep it going.”

For more information on the festival, visit bijff.com.

Here’s the movie schedule:

• “A La Vie Vie (To Life),” France, 2014, 104 minutes (In French with subtitles). 3:30 p.m. May 6 and 8 p.m. May 9.

A tender and amusing drama set in the early 1960s about the reunion of three Jewish survivors who haven’t seen each other since Auschwitz. Although their lives have taken very different paths, they strive to reconnect during a summer getaway in a seaside town in the north of France.

• “Deli Man,” USA, 2014, 92 minutes, (English). 6:30 p.m. May 7 Saturday (dinner and film) and 3:30 p.m. May 10.

Third-generation deli owner Ziggy Gruber has built one of the finest delicatessen restaurants in Houston. His life - augmented by the stories of iconic delis such as Katz’s, 2nd Avenue Deli, Nate ‘n Al, Carnegie, and the Stage - embodies a tradition indelibly linked to its savory, nostalgic foods.

• “Dough,” England, 2015, 94 minutes, (English). 1 p.m. May 8 and 3:30 p.m. May 12.

Curmudgeonly widower Nat Dayan (Jonathan Pryce) obstinately clings to his way of life and his livelihood as a kosher bakery shop owner in London’s East End. With a dwindling clientele and the pressures of encroaching big box stores, Dayan reluctantly enlists the help of teenager Ayyash, who has a secret side gig selling marijuana to help his struggling immigrant mother make ends meet. When Ayyash accidentally drops his stash into the mixing dough, the challah starts flying off the shelves, and an unlikely friendship forms between the old Jewish baker and his young Muslim apprentice.

• “Gett: the Trial of Viviane Ansalem,” Israel, France and Germany, 2014, 115 minutes (Hebrew, French, Arabic, with subtitles). 3 p.m. May 8 (followed by a panel discussion) and 8 p.m. May 10.

In Israel, only rabbis can legitimate a marriage or its dissolution. But a religious divorce (“gett” in Hebrew) is only possible with consent from the husband. Viviane Ansalem has been applying for divorce for three years, but her husband, Elisha, will not agree. His intransigence, Viviane’s determination to fight for her freedom and the ambiguous role of the judges shape a procedure in which tragedy vies with absurdity.

• “The Last Mensch,” Germany, 2014, 89 minutes, (German, Hebrew, Yiddish, English, Hungarian, with subtitles). 6 p.m. May 8 and 1 p.m. May 12.

Having spent a lifetime concealing his heritage, an aging German Holocaust survivor is told by rabbis he will not be allowed to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Determined to return to his birthplace and establish his ancestry, the man enlists the help of a brash, chain-smoking Turkish woman, and the unlikely duo set out on a road trip to a small village on the Hungarian-Romanian border that will irrevocably change them both.

• Hunting Elephants, Israel, 2013, 107 minutes, (Hebrew, English). 3:30 p.m. May 9 and 8 p.m. May 11.

Twelve-year-old Yonatan’s father dies while working at the local bank, and then the bank declares its intent to repossess the boy’s home. In this crime comedy, the young man joins with his grandfather, a former Mossad agent, and two elderly friends to seek revenge and rob the bank.

• “Karski and the Lords of Humanity,” Poland, Russia, USA, 2015, 72 minutes, (English). 1 p.m. May 9 and 6 p.m. May 11.

A feature-length, partially animated documentary about a member of the Polish underground who acted as a courier during World War II. His mission was to inform the Allied powers of Nazi crimes against the Jews of Europe in an effort to prevent the Holocaust.

• “Felix and Meira,” Canada, 2015, 105 minutes (French, English, Yiddish, Hebrew, with subtitles). 8 p.m. May 8 and 3:30 p.m. May 11.

Meira is a Hasidic Jewish wife and mother, and Félix is a secular loner mourning the recent death of his estranged father when they unexpectedly meet. As Félix opens Meira’s eyes to the world beyond her tight-knit Orthodox community, her desire for change becomes harder for her to ignore. The touching tale of self-discovery is set against the backdrops of Montreal, Brooklyn and Venice.

• “In Silence,” Slovakia, Czech Republic, 2014, 90 minutes (Slovak, with subtitles). 6 p.m. May 9 and 6 p.m. May 12.

Before the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia, Edith Kraus is an acclaimed concert pianist and Alice Flachova an aspiring teenage ballerina. In 1942, both are deported to the Terezin concentration camp. The sylized docu-drama also tracks the persecution of other musicians, composers and conductors persecuted during the Holocaust. The film is saturated in music and ravishing pastel-tinted cinematography.

• “Once in a Lifetime,” France, 2014, 105 minutes (French, with subtitles). 6 p.m. May 10 and 8 p.m. May 12.

A dedicated history teacher at a French high school creates a lesson for her underprivileged multicultural students: a competition on the theme of child victims of Nazi concentration camps. The project is met with resistance until a face-to-face encounter with a Holocaust survivor changes everything.

email: msommer@buffnews.com

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