Worthy competitors

The lineup for the 28th Haifa International Film Festival is vast and varied.

Fill the Void (photo credit: Courtesy)
Fill the Void
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Some of the year’s most hotly anticipated Israeli films will compete in the Haifa International Film Festival this year, which will take place from September 29 to October 8. The festival will showcase 60 recent locally made films, including eight feature films, 10 documentaries and 28 short movies. Several of these films are nominated for multiple Ophir Awards, so one of them may become Israel’s next nominee for the Best Foreign Film Oscar.
Perhaps no film has aroused as much curiosity as Rama Burstein’s Fill the Void. This film was slated to have its premiere at the Jerusalem Film Festival in July, but then it was accepted into the extremely prestigious Venice Film Festival.
The organizers of that festival asked Burstein to choose between Jerusalem and Venice, and she chose the European film festival.
The choice was understandable, since Venice is one of the most important festivals in the world.
However, the real problem with the choice was that she was forced to make it at all. Shmuelik Maoz’s Lebanon, which was shown at the Jerusalem film fest in 2009, went on to win the top prize at Venice that year, and that didn’t seem to present a problem for anyone.
In any case, Burstein’s film is also being shown at the Toronto International Film Festival and the New York Film Festival. The mere fact that it has been included in so many festivals is enough to raise expectations. Fill the Void tells the story of a young haredi woman who is promised in an arranged marriage. But when her sister dies suddenly, her own plans to marry start to fall apart. Burstein, a graduate of the Sam Spiegel School for Film in Jerusalem nearly 20 years ago, became ultra- Orthodox herself after finishing her studies. Fill the Void is her first feature film, and she has said in interviews that she felt very strongly that previous films about the haredi community had painted a false picture.
Idan Hubel’s The Cut-Off Man is another film that was withdrawn from the Jerusalem Film Festival when it was accepted at Venice. It stars Moshe Ivgy as a worker at the water company, which has to cut off water to people’s apartments when they don’t pay their bills.
Hiam Abbass, the well-known Palestinian actress who starred in the films The Syrian Bride and Lemon Tree, is making her directorial debut with Inheritance.
Set in an Arab village in the Galilee during the Second Lebanon War, the film is about the conflicts that affect a family that gathers to celebrate a wedding.
Abbass stars in the film, and the rest of the cast reads like a Who’s Who of the most distinguished Palestinian actors: Ashraf Barhoum (Clash of the Titans); Makram and Clara Khoury, a father and daughter who co-starred in The Syrian Bride; Ali Suliman (Body of Lies, Lemon Tree); and Yussuf Abu- Warda (from the television series The Arbitrator). In a 2008 interview I did with her prior to the opening of Lemon Tree, Abbass said she very much wanted to direct and was working on a number of scripts. She has also had a very successful acting career abroad and gave an especially memorable performance as a Syrian woman in New York in the 2007 film The Visitor.
Yevgeny Roman’s Igor and the Cranes’ Journey tells the story of a 14-year-old boy who moves from Moscow to Israel with his mother.
His father, a bird researcher from whom Igor has been estranged for years, stays behind in Russia.
Father and son begin following the migration of a flock of cranes via the Internet. It stars Menashe Noy.
Aner Preminger’s Present Continuous is about a stressed-out Jerusalem mother who locks up her family one afternoon during the second intifada.
Room 514 is a tense drama directed by Sharon Ben-Ziv about a female IDF officer interrogating a male commander about a breach of ethics he has committed.
Michal Meir’s Alta and Yonatan Gurfinkel’s Six Times will also compete for Best Feature Film.
Among the films in the Documentary Competition will be Anat Zuria’s latest film, The Lesson.
Zuria’s previous documentaries, such as Sentenced to Marriage and The Black Bus, tackled controversial issues concerning women and religion.
For more information about films in the Haifa International Film Festival, go to the festival website at haifaff.co.il