Haifa Film Festival presents diverse lineup of Israeli, international cinema

Which films should you see at the Haifa International Film Festival?

‘THE BLUE Caftan’  (photo credit: Haifa International Film Festival)
‘THE BLUE Caftan’
(photo credit: Haifa International Film Festival)

The 38th Haifa International Film Festival, which will run from October 8-17 at the Haifa Cinematheque and other theaters around the city, will feature a varied selection of the best of recent world cinema, as well as new films from Israel.

The festival, whose new artistic director is Yaron Shamir (following longtime director Pnina Blayer’s retirement) is opening with one of the most buzzed-about movies of the year, Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling, and will close with an Israeli film, Shemi Zarhin’s Silent

Olivia Wilde is an actress who made her directorial debut with the fun movie Booksmart, about two nerdy best friends. Don’t Worry Darling is a controversial film, a thriller about a Stepford Wives-like planned desert community where the husbands are up to something really sinister, starring Florence Pugh, pop singer Harry Styles, Chris Pine and Gemma Chan, as well as Wilde herself. If you ever read the gossip press, you know that there are a lot of rumors about the cast’s feuds and romances, especially since its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival, which should make it even more fun to see.

Veteran Israeli director Zarhin’s Silent stars Moris Cohen, Levana Finkelstein, Oshri Cohen and Esti Zakheim in a complex story of an aggressive journalist, a telegenic political candidate with nothing to say and an older woman who has taken a vow of silence.

As always, there will be a number of competitions, including for the Best Israeli Feature Film and Best Israeli Documentary, as well as the Carmel Competition for International Films and the Golden Anchor competition, which is for debut films. 

 ‘MRS. HARRIS Goes to Paris’ (credit: Haifa International Film Festival) ‘MRS. HARRIS Goes to Paris’ (credit: Haifa International Film Festival)
Outdoor events and awards

In addition to the films in the festival, there will be a number of free outdoor events in parks and public spaces around the city. The event always brings a festive spirit to Haifa, and those attending get a chance to enjoy the beauty and relaxed atmosphere of the city during the Sukkot holiday.

The festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Makram Khoury, one of Israel’s finest actors, who is at work on his directorial debut. Khoury has had an extensive stage career in addition to his film work, including performing the role of Shylock in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of The Merchant of Venice. 

The first Arab recipient of the Israel Prize, Khoury won an Ophir Award for his performance as a Greek Holocaust survivor in Magic Men. He has appeared in many movies and television series abroad, including The West Wing and Messiah. His latest film, Tarik Sela’s Boy from Heaven, about a power struggle at a Cairo University, will be shown at the festival.

Distinguished guests

The festival will feature a number of distinguished guests from abroad, as the film festival world begins to return to normal after years of canceled and small-scale festivals. The festival includes a large number of films from the Middle East, including from Iran, Egypt and Tunisia, and there will be a delegation of women filmmakers from Morocco. 

Maryam Touzani, a Moroccan director/actress will be presenting The Blue Caftan, her latest film, at the festival, accompanied by the film’s producer, Nabil Ayouch, her partner and also a director, who made the acclaimed film Casablanca Beats, and several of his films will be screened. The Blue Caftan stars Saleh Bakri (The Band’s Visit) and won the FIPRESCI Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Czech director Beata Parkanová, who won the Best Director Prize at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival for her film The Word, will be a guest of the festival. Her film tells the story of how an ordinary Czech family feels pressured in the aftermath of the Russian invasion in 1968.

Aku Louhimies, a Finnish director, will present his new film, The Wait, a reworking of a classic Finnish romance.

Benedetta Argentieri will attend the festival with the documentary The Matchmaker, a look at a young British woman who joined ISIS and convinced others to follow her. The film just had its world premiere in Venice.

In the popular Culinary Cinema section, Monica Franco will attend the festival with her husband, Sarajevo-born master chef Ljubomir Stanisic, who is the subject of her documentary, Ljubomir Stanisic: Heartbeat. Also in Culinary Cinema, Danish director Rasmus Dinesen will present two of his films, Nordic by Nature: Michelin Stars, a portrait of chef Poul Andrias Ziska, and Terroir to Table, about winemaking.

Many movies by master filmmakers from around the world will have their Israeli premieres at the festival. Paul Schrader’s latest film, Master Gardener, stars Joel Edgerton and Sigourney Weaver in the story of a horticulturist who cares for the grounds of a wealthy dowager. Kirill Serebrennikov’s Tchaikovsky’s Wife looks at the relationship between the legendary composer and his bride. Stephen Frears’s The Lost King is about an amateur archeologist who sets out to find King Richard III’s remains, and it stars Sally Hawkins and Steve Coogan. 

The latest film by Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days), R.M.N., looks at xenophobia in a Romanian village. Francois Ozon’s Peter von Kant is a reworking of the Rainer Werner Fassbinder movie The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972), and the two films will be shown on the same bill in the Double Features section, in which a number of classics will be paired with reworked versions.

There are dozens of other films in the incredibly diverse program. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris stars Lesley Manville in an adaptation of the Paul Gallico novel about a British cleaning lady in the 1950s who goes to Paris in search of a designer gown. Sadaf Foroughi’s Summer with Hope is a film by an Iranian-Canadian director about conflicts behind a swim competition in Iran.

Sergio Leone - L’italiano che inventò l’America, a documentary by Francesco Zippel, is a look at the work of the Italian director who had a profound impact on Hollywood with his spaghetti Westerns, including The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in America

The festival will feature a retrospective of the late Greek director Theo Angelopoulos, a former guest of honor of the festival.

There will also be a number of industry events, under the framework of the Haifa International Forum, and will include pitching events for movies and television, a cinema marketplace and master classes and workshops. There will be two delegations of senior producers attending the festival, one from Italy sponsored by Rabinovich Foundation for the Arts, the Italian Ministry of Culture and the Cinecitta Studios, and one from Nigeria, sponsored by the Nigerian Film Corporation. The directors of the Tallinn Black Nights Festival will attend and will discuss cinematic collaboration.

For more information and to buy tickets, go to https://www.haifaff.co.il/eng