The Buffalo International Jewish Film Festival has a long history of offering top-notch programming.
But the 34-year-old film program -- the third longest running festival of its kind in North America -- may have outdone itself this year.
Eight of the 11 films being screened from March 22 to March 28 garnered a critics' score of 90 or higher on Rotten Tomatoes, the website that tallies reviews by front-line critics. The movies are from the United States, Canada, Germany, Israel, Australia, Poland and Austria.
"The festival has striven to obtain the very best new independent international films that should not only amuse and enthrall the viewer, but should also invite contemplation on societal issues of ethics and justice," said Michael Silverman, who chairs the Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo's 15-member selection committee.
"The films fit nicely into the contemporary zeitgeist, shall we say, things that people should be interested in because of the times we live in now," Silverman said. "They are timely films."
The festival opens with "The Cakemaker," a rare Israel-German collaboration and Silverman's favorite.
All eight matinees and ten evening screenings are at the Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St. Six of the films are documentaries, four are dramas and one is a drama-comedy.
"It was a strong year for documentaries," Silverman said.
The festival's lineup
"93Queen." A no-nonsense Hasidic lawyer and mother of six shakes up a Hasidic community by creating the first all-female ambulance corps in New York City. Screens: 6 p.m. March 25 and 6 p.m. March 28.
"The Accountant of Auschwitz." Issues arise from the trial of Oskar Gröning, known as the "Accountant of Auschwitz" for the murder of 300,000 Jews. Screens: 3:30 p.m. March 24, with an appearance by director Matthew Shoychet; 3:30 p.m. March 28.
"Bye Bye Germany." Six Jewish friends living in Frankfurt in 1946 become home-to-home salesmen selling fine bed linens. Then, a man's past catches up with him. Screens: 8 p.m. March 25 and 6 p.m. March 27.
"The Cakemaker." A German baker has an affair with an Israeli man who dies in a car crash. He then works with and falls in love with the man's widow, only the secret he is keeping from her becomes difficult to conceal. Screens: 7 p.m. March 23 and 8 p.m. March 27.
"Geula (Redemption)." A former frontman for a rock band becomes an Orthodox Jew forced to reconnect with his secular past and reunite the band to pay for expensive medical treatments for his daughter. Screens: 3:30 p.m. March 25 and 8 p.m. March 28.
"Joe’s Violin." An elderly Holocaust survivor donates his violin to a local instrument drive, changing the life of a 12-year-old school girl from America's poorest congressional district, and unexpectedly, his own. Screens: 3:30 p.m. March 22 and 1 p.m. March 26.
"Outback Rabbis." Two Orthodox rabbis and their families head into the heart of Australia on a journey filled with surprising and emotional encounters with Aussie outback characters, and laced with Jewish wit, music and culture. Screens: 3:30 p.m. March 22, 1 p.m. March 26.
"Past Life." Two sisters take a trip to unravel a disturbing wartime mystery that has a cast foreboding shadow on their entire lives. Screens: 6 p.m. March 24 and 6 p.m. March 26.
"The Waldheim Waltz." Former U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim's Nazi complicity with Nazi war crimes is met with denial by Austria's political class and an outbreak of anti-Semitism and patriotism. Screens: 1 p.m. March 25 and 3:30 p.m. March 27.
"Who Will Write Our History." The story of Emanuel Ringelblum and the secret and eye-opening Oyneg Shabes Archive he created about the Warsaw Ghetto. The archive documented not only how the Jews of the ghetto died, but how they lived. Screens: 1 p.m. March 24 and 3:30 p.m. March 26.
"Working Woman." While her husband struggles to keep his restaurant afloat, a mother of three takes a job as an assistant to a powerful realtor. Tired of his advances, she fights back. Screens: 8 p.m. March 24 and 8 p.m. March 26.
Buffalo International Jewish Film Festival
March 22 to 28 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St. Admission is $10 per film, free for children 18 and under with parent. A $50 Flex Pass is good for six tickets.