Haifa International Film Festival 2018: Overview

The Other Story/Photo: Michel Avramovich

Opening the 34th Haifa International Film Festival this year on September 22, 2018, will be an Israeli film, Avi Nesher’s The Other Story. The festival will feature a bounty of critically acclaimed international films and premieres of Israeli films, screened at the Haifa Cinematheque and other venues, as well as industry events and outdoor events free and open to the public. Closing the festival on October 1st will be Damien Chazelle’s  (La La Land, Whiplash) much anticipated First Man, starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.

First Man

Nesher’s films touch on the emotional core of Israeli culture, from The Troupe (1978) which observed the ties and tensions within a military entertainment troupe, to Turn Left at the End of the World (2004) that looked at the lives of new immigrants settled in a development town in the very barren Negev of the late 1960s, to The Secrets (2007), exploring the experiences of Ultra-Orthodox young women, and The Matchmaker (2010), that describes a young boy’s coming of age as he navigates the difficulties of talking to girls, while acquiring a deeper understanding of the wider world through his job working for a Holocaust survivor. Most recently, Nesher’s film Past Life (2016) took its inspiration more directly from life, inspired by the biographies of two sisters, one a musician and composer, and the other a journalist. The Other Story is also based on true events, with a screenplay co-written by Nesher and Noam Shpancer follows the story of two women: one, Anat Abadi, who comes from a secular family and is about to marry an Ultra-Orthodox man, much to her family’s dismay, and one who longs to escape the confines of strict religious observance. Yuval Segal (Fauda) portrays Yonatan, the psychologist father of Anat Abadi (Joy Rieger), who returns to Israel at the urging of his ex-wife Tali (Maya Dagan) to help prevent what they perceive as their daughter’s disastrous marriage. Sasson Gabai (The Band’s Visit) plays Shlomo, Anat’s grandfather who is also a psychologist, and is currently working with a couple involved in a bitter custody battle.

Festival highlights include:

Zbigniew Preisner/Photo Anna Wloch

Acclaimed composer Zbigniew Preisner will be a guest of honor at the festival. Best known for his compositions for Krzysztof Kieślowski’s films, Preisner will conduct a concert of selections from Kieślowski’s Three Colors, as well as a selection from Requiem for a Friend, a memorial to the director. Preisner’s music for Three Colors: Red includes compositions for Polish and French versions of a poem by Nobel Prize-winning poet Wisława Szymborska. Among Preisner’s film scores are the soundtrack for the 1993 film The Secret Garden, directed by Agnieszka Holland and based on the eponymous novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, as well as The Island on Bird Street (1997), directed by Søren Kragh-Jacobsen, based on the semi-autobiographical novel by the same name by Israeli author Uri Orlev (1981). The concert will take place on Saturday, September 29, 2018 and will feature soprano Edyta Krzemień and Konrad Mastyło on piano, as well as the singers of the Israeli Opera Chorus, under the direction of Chorus Master Ethan Schmeisser. The concert will be accompanied by selections from the films.

Israeli film director Moshé Mizrahi passed away on August 3, 2018. Mizrahi directed 14 films, three of which were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film: I Love You Rosa (1972), The House on Chelouche Street (1973), and Madame Rosa (1977). The latter film, which won the Oscar, is based on Romain Gary’s 1975 novel The Life Before Us, and starred Simone Signoret as an elderly Jewish woman, a former prostitute and Holocaust survivor in Paris who provides a home for the children of prostitutes, and shares a special connection with Momo (Samy Ben Youb), an Algerian youth. The festival will honor the life and art of Moshe Mizrahi with a special screening of I Sent a Letter to My Love.

Nizhona Gilad, founder of Nachshhon Films, will be honored at the festival with the Award for Contribution to the Distribution of the Art of Film in Israel. Born and educated in Haifa, Gilad began her career as an educator and teacher of history, then turned her love of films into a vocation. She founded Nachshon Films 42 years ago, bringing diverse voices in film from around the world to Israeli audiences, as well as encouraging and providing a platform for Israeli films.

The full program is available on the Haifa International Film Festival website.

More on the festival:

Israeli Feature Films in Competition