Buffalo International Jewish Film Festival
by M. Faust
A preview of the first week in the festival’s newly expanded schedule
For its 27th edition, the Buffalo International Jewish Film Festival will be moving to a new home in the state-of-the-art Maxine and Robert Seller Theatre in the Jewish Community Center’s Benderson Family Building. The festival is also expanding to 12 days, during which a total of 20 films will be shown.
The BIJFF opens Sunday afternoon with a revival of Hand in Hand, the classic 1960 drama. Set in a rural British town, this is the story of the friendship between two seven-year-olds, an Irish Catholic boy and a Jewish girl. Both are outsiders by nature of their families’ religions, and while the prejudice they face isn’t overt, its casualness can be shocking for a modern audience. It may be a shade corny, but it’s still appealing particularly for the performances of young actors Philip Needs and Loretta Parry.
Sunday’s main event is a father’s day gala that includes dinner and live music preceding the film, the Oscar-nominated documentary 100 Voices: A Journey Home, which tracks a group of 72 American cantors on a visit to Poland. They perform at Warsaw’s National Opera House, the largest indoor stage in Europe, and the Nozyk Synagogue, which survived World War II. The music, both in performance and archival clips, is the show, despite inevitable detours into familiar history. Tickets are available for just the film if you don’t want to attend the dinner.
Among the fiction films, I’m looking forward to Human Resources Manager, from Eran Riklis, the Israeli director whose films (including The Syrian Bride and Lemon Tree) look at the absurdity of life in the face of official bureaucracies. This is a Kafkaesque story about the HR manager of a Jerusalem bakery who is sent to accompany the body of a dead employee back to her homeland in Romania.
If the plot of Ha Hov (The Debt) sounds familiar, you may have seen last year’s American remake starring Helen Mirren and Jessica Chastain. In 1965 three Israeli Mossad agents learn that a Nazi criminal whom they thought to be dead is still alive and ready to make a public confession. But because this would make them look bad, they set about preventing him. The past and present stories unfold as we learn that neither is what we first thought.
You may also recall the 2000 documentary Into the Arms of Strangers, about the Kindertransport, a nine-month operation in 1938 in which 10,000 Jewish children were allowed to leave Germany for foster homes in England. The man who ran that operation was Sir Nicholas Winton, who is still alive. His “family”—people rescued in the Kindertransport and their descendents—number more than 6,000, and are the subject of this film that was named Best Documentary at the Montreal World Film Festival.
For My Father is a German/Israeli drama about a Palestinian teenager sent on a suicide mission to Tel Aviv. When his explosive vest fails to detonate, he must wait several days, during which he meets a girl of his own age who is rebelling against her conservative upbringing.
Echoes of Fritz Lang and his fatalistic films noir hang over Naomi, a black comic drama about a middle-aged academic who commits a crime of passion, putting him in a place of both guilt and love between his younger wife and his mother.
A little-known aspect of World War II (you wouldn’t think there were any left, would you) is the subject of Free Men, a fact-based story about Algerian Muslims who joined the French resistance.
More BIJFF films will be previewed here next week. You can get the complete schedule and ticket information and see trailers of the films at www.bijff.com.
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