There will be more than 150 films shown at this year's Haifa International Film Festival, which runs from Saturday night to October 14. The majority are new films, some of which are from Israel and premiering at the festival, while many are international films that will have their Israeli premiere here.
Of the 70 or so Israeli films that will be shown, the documentary category is especially strong, with 16 movies on a wide variety of topics, such as Gilad Reshef's Feeling the Wind, a portrait of a boy blinded in the bombing of the Maxim Restaurant in Haifa that killed most of his family and how he tries to put his life back together; Cheli Rosenberg's The Modern Ones, a look at the rapidly growing number of adult Orthodox Jews who choose to stay single; and Hagar Kot's 80 KM/H, the Road, My Love and I, a glimpse into the world of beleaguered long-distance truck drivers in Israel.
Serious retrospectives are also part of the program, and this year's focus is on two of the film world's most celebrated mavericks: Sam Peckinpah and Roberto Rossellini.
Although for many years these directors were at the forefront of world cinema, they may not be widely known by younger audiences. There are all kinds of reasons for this, partly the fact that neither made politically correct or conventional films. Rossellini, who was born 100 years ago last May (and died in 1977), will be remembered at a screening of his greatest film, the 1945 Open City (Roma, Citta Aperta).
A riveting, uncompromising look at Rome under Nazi occupation, it heralded the beginning of the Neo-Realist cinema movement.
Starring Anna Magnani and Aldo Fabrizi and co-written by Federico Fellini, it has had an important influence on later filmmakers. A newly restored print will be shown at the Haifa Cinematheque on Monday at 5 p.m. Il Etait Une Fois . . . Rome, Ville Ouverte (Once Upon a Time... Rome, Open City), a 2006 documentary about the making of the film, will be shown on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. at the Tikotin Museum. Rossellini fans will be especially excited about a meeting with his son, Renzo Rossellini, who produced many of his movies, and will discuss his father's legacy on Wednesday at 11 a.m. at The Mirrors Hall, Beit Hecht.
Many under-40 viewers probably know Rossellini mainly as the father of Isabella Rossellini, who starred in David Lynch's Blue Velvet. Roberto Rossellini was married to actress Ingrid Bergman, Isabella's mother, for several years. The couple created a huge scandal when they had their first child in 1950 while Bergman was still married to her first husband.
The tribute to Sam Peckinpah, known for his violent Westerns and dark action movies, will be even more extensive and will feature five of his films, including The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs, plus three documentaries. On Thursday at 11 a.m. at the Mirrors Hall in Beit Hecht, there will be an event with Michael Siegel, director of one of the documentaries, Passion & Poetry: The Ballad of Sam Peckinpah, and its producer, Katherine Haber, a longtime friend of Peckinpah's who worked on several of his films.
For tickets, call (04) 835-3515 or go to www.haifaff.co.il
BUT HAIFA isn't the only film festival taking place during Succot. Ma'ale Film School in Jerusalem - the school for Orthodox filmmakers - will be hosting the Cinema Succot Festival from October 8-12 at Ma'ale, on Rehov Shivtei Yisrael 20, near Safra Square.
There will be screenings every evening at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., and each program features several short films by Ma'ale graduates on a particular theme. On Sunday night, it's "Falling in Love"; on Monday, "Family Matters"; Tuesday, "Jerusalem Dreams"; Wednesday, "Haredi Magic"; and on Thursday, "The Religious/Secular Divide."
For those not familiar with Ma'ale, these programs may sound as if they would only interest religious audiences, but this is not the case. I have seen many Ma'ale films, and they are simply good movies, on a par with films made by students at any other film school in Israel - or the rest of the world. I especially enjoyed Birkonim, which is being shown as part of the "Family Matters" program on Monday.
Given the level of tension among religious and secular Israelis, it's important to have religious filmmakers making movies aimed at general audiences, such as Ushpizin, the feature film written by and starring Shuli Rand, an actor who became ultra-Orthodox a number of years ago. There is no better way to get your perspective across than to make an entertaining film.
Call (02) 627-7366 or check the Web site at www.maale.co.il for further details.