Stronger than ever

Opening with George Clooney’s latest movie, this year’s Haifa International Film Festival features 130 productions from more than 40 countries.

The Fifth Heaven film 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Fifth Heaven film 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There are always many festivals that go on during Succot, but the 27th Haifa International Film Festival, which runs from October 13-22, will be one of the strongest ever. While the guest list is still in flux, the festival will feature approximately 130 films from more than 40 countries, which will be shown at the Haifa Cinematheque and theaters around the city.
Pnina Blayer, the artistic director, will preside over a festival that is increasingly important to the movie business in this country. Among its many special events will be the 8th International Marketing Forum, which brings together Israeli filmmakers and film producers and fund managers from abroad looking to invest in Israeli film. This year, an international agreement with the UK film community will be launched, and the British delegation is set to include the distinguished director John Madden, who made Shakespeare in Love and just helmed an English-language remake of the Israeli film The Debt.
There will also be delegations for producers from film funds in Luxembourg and Germany.
For the second year, there will also be the Haifa-Israeli Cinemarket, a forum in which international distributors have been invited to come and view Israeli works in progress and will award money to projects they like.
These events are just two of the many designed for filmmakers and the public.
The opening night attraction will be George Clooney’s latest film as director, The Ides of March.
It stars Clooney as a governor running for US president, with Ryan Gosling as a bright and ambitious political operative who runs his campaign team.
The festival will close with Steven Soderbergh’s critically acclaimed thriller Contagion. The film, which has an all-star cast featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard and Kate Winslet, is about a rapidly spreading virus that threatens to wipe out most of the world’s population.
Although similar stories have been told before, this time it is done with a realism that reviewers have called extremely frightening.
The Israeli feature film competition is much anticipated in Israel, and often some of the best films of the year debut at Haifa. This year, nine films will be shown in it, and several of these films, which have not yet been released, were already nominated for Ophir Awards, the prizes of the Israel Academy for Film.
The most anticipated film in the Israeli competition is Eran Kolirin’s The Exchange. Kolirin had a huge success with his previous film, The Band’s Visit, in 2007. His latest film, which tells a surreal story, was shown at the Venice Film Festival. It stars Sharon Tal, Dov Navon and Rotem Keinan.
Tawfik Abu Wael is also bringing his much-anticipated second feature to Haifa. His first film, Atash, was a hit at film festivals all over the world in 2004. His latest, Thanator: Last Days in Jerusalem, tells the story of a Palestinian couple just before they leave Jerusalem to live in France.
Dina Zvi Riklis’s The Fifth Heaven tells the story of an immigrant girl and her struggle to fit into Israel in the 1940s. Her previous film was the acclaimed Three Mothers.
Little Simico’s Great Fantasy, directed by Ariel Lubetzky, stars Zion Baruch, Neta Garty and Uri Gavriel in the story of a 30-something slacker who becomes obsessed with making a film about strippers.
Noa Aharoni’s By Summer’s End is about an Israeli family in 1978 who must deal with the return of a longlost relative.
There will also be competitions for Israeli documentaries, short films, student films and animated films.
The Golden Anchor Competition is international and spotlights films from countries along the Mediterranean.
This year it features Le Havre, Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki’s film made in France about a shoe shiner who tries to save a refugee. Acclaimed Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s film Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, the story of a group of men searching for a dead body on the steppes, won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival this year. And Emanuele Crialese’s Terraferma focuses on a Sicilian community that suddenly has to cope with an influx of refugees.
For further details on the programs and to order tickets, visit the festival website at