Looking forward to the Haifa International Film Festival – the beautiful view, relaxed atmosphere and an abundance of great movies. This fall, the 30th edition of the festival will take place from October 9 – 18, 2014. There is an especially exciting line-up of Israeli films in the feature competition, with both intriguing debuts and powerful films from well known directors.
Everyone knows that Israeli films have been trending for a while now, making a strong presence in international festivals. Asaf Korman (editor on Big Bad Wolves, God’s Neighbors and The Slut) makes his directorial debut with Next To Her, screened at Cannes’ Directors Fortnight and Karlovy Vary. Nir Bergman, a director with two strong previous films (Intimate Grammar 2010, Broken Wings 2002) and a good feel for literature, will present the world premiere of his third feature, Yona, at the festival. Several of the films have been nominated for the Israeli Academy of Film and Television Ophir Awards, including: The Farewell Party, Manpower, Apples from the Desert and Valley. Yona and Next to Her are both contending in the categories of Best Feature and Best Director.
Israeli Films in Competition:
Next to Her (At Le Layla) (Israel, 2014, 90 min., Hebrew, Hebrew and English Subtitles)
Director: Asaf Korman; Screenplay: Liron Ben-Shlush; Producers: Haim Meckelberg, Estee-Yaakov Meckelberg; co-produced by Yigal Mograbi, Moshe Edry, Leon Edry; Cast: Liron Ben-Shlush, Dana Ivgy, Yaacov Daniel, Sophia Ostritsky; Festivals: Cannes 2014, Karlovy Vary 2014. New Director.
Synopsis: Chelli, 27, is raising her mentally disabled sister Gabby, 24, all by herself. When the social worker finds out she leaves her sister alone in the house while at work, Chelli is forced to place her in a day-care center and the void left by her sister’s absence makes room for a man in her life. But her inability to lead a normal, intimate relationship with anyone but Gabby, forces Chelli into a twisted threesome, where boundaries between love, sacrifice, nurturing and torturing are broken.
Tuviansky (Israel, 2014, 82 min., Hebrew, English Subtitles)
Director: Riki Shelach; Screenplay: Michael Bar Zohar; Producers: Moshe Edery, Leon Edery, Ofer Naim, Amir Gedaliah, Riki Shelach; Cast: Oz Zehavi, Micha Selectar, Poly Reshef, Marina Shoif, Shira Katzenelenbogen. World premiere.
Synopsis: Based on a true story: In June 1948, six weeks after the State of Israel was established. Captain Meir Tuviansky was accused of Treason. Only 3 hours and 45 minutes passed from the moment he was arrested until his body was dumped in a pit. During this time he was interrogated, court martialed, sentenced and executed. En route, his arresting party managed to stop for lunch in Rehovot and organize a firing squad in Ramle. A year later Tuviansky was completely exonerated. One of his executioners was subsequently tried, convicted and lightly punished.
Yona (Israel/Germany, 2014, 100 min., Hebrew, English Subtitles)
Director: Nir Bergman; Screenplay: Dita Guery, Nir Bergman; Producers: Moshe Edery, Leon Edery, Chilik Michaeli, Michael Eckelt, Tami Leon, Avraham Pirchi; Cast: Naomi Levov, Shalom Michaelashvili, Itamar Rothchild, Michael Moshonov, Tom Hagi. World premiere.
Synopsis: Yona follows the dramatic life story of legendary Israeli poet Yona Wallach. A young woman from the countryside, orphaned by her father, making her first steps in the realm of Hebrew poetry. It’s the early sixties and Wallach’s battle for recognition takes place in a male-dominated environment. With her breakthrough and the inevitable transition to the big city, Yona – constantly testing her own boundaries – suffers from a mental breakdown. Her struggle to resume writing and attain immortality in the canon of Hebrew poetry – the price she was willing to pay for that immortality – is the film’s main plotline.
The Farewell Party (Mita Tova) (Israel/Germany, 2014, 93 min., Hebrew, English Subtitles)
Director: Tal Granit, Sharon Maymon; Producers: Haim Meckelberg, Estee Yaakov-Meckelberg, Talia Klinhandler, Osnat Handlesman-Keren, Moshe Edry, Leon Edry; Cast: Zeev Revah, Levana Finkelstein, Alisa Rozen, Ilan Dar, Rafael Tabor. Festivals: Venice 2014, Toronto 2014.
Synopsis: The Farewell Party is a compassionate dark comedy about friendship and knowing when to say goodbye. A group of friends at a Jerusalem retirement home build a machine for self-euthanasia in order to help their terminally ill friend. When rumors of the machine begin to spread, more and more people ask for their help, and the friends are faced with an emotional dilemma.
Manpower (Israel/France, 2014, 88 min., Hebrew, Nigerian and English, English Subtitles)
Director & screenplay: Noam Kaplan; Producers: Yoav Roeh, Aurit Zamir, co-producer Janja Kralj; Cast: Yossi Marshak, Shmulik Calderon, Shimon Udi Pampas, Sun Intusap. World premiere. New Director.
Synopsis: Meir Cohen is a decorated police officer who barely earns a living. His new assignment of deporting African migrant workers from Israel “of their own free will,” teaches him that foreigners aren’t the only ones who have no future in this country. Other plotlines intertwine with Meir’s story: an Israeli-Filipino boy fighting for recognition, a taxi driver whose children are migrating to a distant country, and a veteran migrant worker who’s forced to decide whether to leave or to hide until trouble passes.
Noam Kaplan’s Manpower delicately sketches a portrait of four men in crisis. Moving between scathing realism and subtle irony, the film raises questions of belonging and uprooting, exile and emigration, home and family.
Valley (Israel, 2014, 85 min., Hebrew, Hebrew and English Subtitles)
Director & Screenplay: Sophie Artus; Producers: David Mandil, Moshe Edery, Leon Edery; Cast: Naveh Tzur, Roy Nik, Joy Rieger, Maor Schwietzer. World premiere.
Synopsis: This is the story of three sensitive teenagers who are forced to deal with violence: violence at home, at school. A story of friendship, love and hate, where the adolescents’ world is revealed as cruel and beautiful; a world where the desire to die or kill and the will to live will define their fate.
The Pracht Inn (Israel, 2014, 93 min. Hebrew and Yiddish, English and Hebrew Subtitles)
Director & Screenplay: Tamar Yarom; Producers: David Mandil, Moshe Edery, Leon Edery, Marek Rozenbaum; Cast: Tzahi Grad, Michaela Eshet, Yael Toker, Vladimir Fridman, Sigalit Fuchs, Marina Maximilian Blumin, Moshe Ferster, Uri Klauzner, Uliana Stavi, Sasha Israel Agarounov, Yaron Brovinsky, Hadas Kleinman, Maayan Bloom, Michaela Elkin. World premiere.
Synopsis: An adaptation of Aharon Appelfeld’s novel Night after Night. In the sixties, a group of holocaust survivors live together in a hostel in Jerusalem. At night they meet in the corridor to drink cognac and play cards. The inn is run by Mrs. Pracht whose insistence on order and discipline and her disdain for Yiddish enrages the residents and ignites their trauma. Manfred, one of the residents, leads a quiet life. He meets a woman and a new relationship sparks. But the irrational atmosphere prevails, and an extreme decision leads to the inevitable end.
Invisibles (Israel/Germany, 2014, 92 min., Hebrew and Arabic, English Subtitles)
Director & Screenplay: Mushon Salomona; Producers: Marek Rosenbaum, Michael Rosenbaum, Michael Eckelt; Cast: Mahmoud Shalaby, Adam Alhuziel, Bat Hen Sebag, Khalifa Natour. World premiere.
Synopsis: Newly discharged from the Israeli Army, Ra’ed, a Bedouin from an unrecognized village in the Negev desert, is determined to save his family’s failing herd of sheep, about to be sold. He plans to live off the herd by starting a roadside Bedouin hospitality restaurant.
Apples From the Desert (Israel, 2014, 90 min., Hebrew, English Subtitles)
Director: Arik Lubetsky, Matti Harari; Screenplay: Savyon Liebrecht, Arik Lubetsky, Matti Harai; Producers: Michael Sharfstein, Moshe Edery, Leon Edery; Cast: Moran Rosenblatt, Shlomi Koriat, Remonde Amsellem, Elisha Banai, Irit Kaplan. World premiere.
Synopsis: Rebecca Abravanel is the only daughter of an Orthodox family living in Jerusalem. Unhappy with the reality of her life, Rebecca secretly opens herself to the secular world. One day she runs away from her family to a kibbutz in the desert with a young man.
The Haifa International Film Festival will take place from October 8 – 18, 2014. The full program and ticket information is available on the festival website. This year’s special deal: 10 movies for the price of 7 – check it out online. All film synopses are reprinted courtesy of the festival.