The 29th Haifa International Film Festival, which runs from September 19 to 28
at the Haifa Cinematheque and other venues around the city, features the very
best of recent international and Israeli cinema, and illustrates how the two
have become inextricably linked.
The opening feature is Ari Folman’s The
Congress, the longawaited follow-up to his highly praised, award-winning feature
Waltz with Bashir. Like that film, The Congress combines animation with live
action; but unlike Bashir, it is an international production, with a very
different focus. Bashir was a documentary about soldiers’ reflections on the
First Lebanon War, but The Congress is based on a science-fiction novel, The
Futurological Congress, by Polish author Stanislaw Lem.
stars Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel and Jon Hamm in a trippy allegory about an
actress – Robin Wright, playing herself – who allows her entire being to be
subsumed into a digital version that never ages. The film, which played at
Cannes, is having its Israeli premiere at the Haifa festival. While most of the
liveaction scenes were filmed abroad, the animated sections were created by an
Israeli animation lab, so it is truly a rare and seamless blending of the
Israeli and international film industries.
The closing-night film,
Gravity, is also science fiction. It stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as
two astronauts who are left adrift after an accident on a spacewalk destroys
their space shuttle. It was directed by Alfonso Cuaron, known for his
Spanish-language movies such as Y Tu Mama Tambien and big-budget hits including
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
As always, there will be a
number of special events, including a meeting with acclaimed British filmmaker
Peter Greenaway, who will present 35 of his short films – in a program called
Short and Sweet.
Greenaway, who has been a guest at the Haifa Film
Festival in past years, is known for his arthouse favorites such as The Tulse
There will be a number of gala screenings of new movies
that promise to be lots of fun. Writer/ director Richard Curtis is known for
such crowd-pleasing hits as Love Actually and Pirate Radio. His latest film,
About Time, stars Rachel McAdams, Domhnall Gleeson and Bill Nighy (who may be
England’sfunniest character actor) in a time-travel comedydrama.
king Jim Jarmusch jumps aboard the vampire bandwagon with his new film Only
Lovers Left Alive, about a rock musician, his lover for more than a century and
her little sister. It stars Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton and Mia
The latest films by Michael Winterbottom (The Look of Love)
and Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty) are also being screened in the Gala
While the Israeli competition is eagerly awaited, the Haifa
International Film Festival also features the Golden Anchor Competition for
films made in countries around the Mediterranean Basin.
This year, there
are films from countries such as Italy, France, Spain and Turkey. Among the
films being shown are the acclaimed master director Ettore Scola’s How Strange
to Be Called Federico! It is a homage to his friend and colleague, the late
Federico Fellini. It’s a hybrid of genres that combines archival footage with
reenacted sequences of Scola’s memories of Fellini.
stars in Marco Bellocchio’s Dormant Beauty, a fact-based drama about the
difficult decision to end the life of a comatose woman.
highlight of the festival for lovers of American literature will be the film
Salinger. Directed by Shane Salerno, it examines the life of J.D. Salinger,
author of the cult classic The Catcher in the Rye and other works. He stopped
publishing in 1965 and was a recluse until his death in 2010. It is especially
topical now, since apparently he wrote several works that may or may not finally
For more information about the festival and to order
tickets, go to the festival website at www.haifaff.co.il