From ugly ducklings to teddy bears

Hollywood meets the Mediterranean at the Haifa Film Festival.

Gemma Arterton 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Gemma Arterton 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The 26th Haifa International Film Festival, which runs from September 23-30 at the Haifa Cinematheque and other theaters around the city, will offer an eclectic mix of the best of contemporary world cinema and the newest Israeli releases.
Although the full program and guest list have yet to be released, there will be 130 films from 40 countries, among them 20 films that were shown at Cannes this year. The festival, under the stewardship of artistic director Pnina Blayer, will honor the Israel Film Fund on its 30th anniversary and will also present a special achievement award to Israeli actress Ronit Elkabetz.
The opening night attraction will be Stephen Frears’ latest film, Tamara Drewe. Frears, whose work includes The Queen and Dangerous Liaisons, has turned to comedy with this well-reviewed film starring the gorgeous new British actress Gemma Arterton. She plays a young woman who has turned from ugly duckling to swan and causes romantic chaos in her hometown when she returns to oversee the sale of her childhood home. Dominic Cooper and Luke Evans co-star.
The closing night movie will be The Town, directed by and starring Ben Affleck. He plays Doug, a bank robber trying to decide whether to go straight and considering a romantic relationship with a bank manager (Rebecca Hall), who may recognize him from one of his bank jobs. Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) plays his partner in crime.
The Golden Anchor Competition features films from countries along the Mediterranean, including French director Bruno Dumont’s Hadewijch; Daniele Luchetti’s La Nostra Vita, with Elio Germano, who won the Best Actor Prize at Cannes this year; Honey, directed by Semih Kaplanoglu of Turkey, which won the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival; Sabbine Lubbe Bakker and Ester Gould’s Shout, about two friends who have grown up in the Golan Heights and then go to study in Syria; and Algerian/French director Rachid Bouchareb’s Outside the Law, about three Algerian brothers who leave home after World War II and end up following very different paths.
For many in Israel, the most closely watched competition will be the Israeli Feature Film Program, which features eight movies, two of which are competing for Best Picture at the Ophir Awards (to be held just before the Haifa Festival opens, on September 21): Eran Riklis’s The Human Resources Manager and Guy Nattiv’s The Flood.
The Human Resources Manager is based on a novel by A. B. Yehoshua (which was called A Woman in Jerusalem in its English translation), about a Jerusalem personnel manager who travels to Russia to compensate the family of a foreign worker who was killed in a terrorist attack. The film, which stars Mark Ivanir and Guri Alfi, is also competing at the Toronto International Film Festival this September. Riklis directed the popular movies The Syrian Bride and Lemon Tree.
The Flood stars Ronit Elkabetz, Michael Moshonov and Tzachi Grad as a family in turmoil when a son with autism returns home to live.
The other Israeli films in the competition are Je t’aime, I love you terminal, directed by Dani Menkin, who directed the documentary 39 Pounds of Love; Eitan Zur’s Naomi; Sameh Zoabi’s Man without a Cell Phone; Alon Zingman’s Dusk; Arnon Tzadok’s Nika; and Haim Bouzaglo’s Black Bullet.
The 12 documentaries include Women of Hamas, directed by Suha Arraf, who wrote the screenplays for The Syrian Bride and Lemon Tree; The Human Windmill by Danny Verete, who made the drama Metallic Blues; and Remember His Name, a collaboration of three well-known directors, Joseph Cedar, Nir Bergman and Dover Kosashvili, along with Yair Raveh and Gili Ganon. One of Seven, a documentary by Israeli journalist Goel Pinto, will be screened in the Jewish Identity category.
Among the special programs will be a tribute to the late director John Huston, featuring some of his most acclaimed films, including The African Queen, starring Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart; The Man Who Would Be King, with Sean Connery and Michael Caine; and The Dead, with Huston’s own daughter, actress Anjelica Huston.
There will be a program of films for the entire family, opening with Kooky, the latest film by Czech director Jan Sverak, about a boy whose mother throws out his favorite old teddy bear, which refuses to disappear from his life.
For further details on the programs and to order tickets, visit the festival Web site at