Haifa Film Festival 2020: Israeli Films

Scattegories/Photo: Ran Mendelson

In accordance with the latest changes in COVID 19 guidelines, the 36th Haifa International Film Festival will take place entirely online from October 3 – 10, 2020. The Israeli feature film competition will not take place this year, however the festival will promote and support Israeli filmmaking through industry events with the participation of leading figures in the international and Israeli film industry, such as the international pitching event and the Haifa Cinemarket.

This year’s festival will feature the Israeli Documentary Competition, with screenings of 8 participating documentaries, in addition there will be screenings of 21 student films, independent shorts, and animated films. 60 international films will participate in the festival, with 17 films in the Carmel Competition.

Israeli Documentary Films in Competition:

The Church/Photo: David Stragmeister

The Church

Israel 2020, Directed by Anat Tal

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the holiest Christian site, is shared by six dominations fighting each other for every square meter. Two Muslim families, guardians of the entrance key to the church, argue who is the true key custodian. Jonny, an Israeli police officer in charge, is trying to preserve the ancient, fragile Status Quo.


Israel 2020, Directed by Yakie Ayalon

Esther’s parents, work immigrants from Nigeria, met and married in Israel, where they raised their three children. Feeling desperate, the mother left Israel for Nigeria, taking the children with her. Amidst the difficulties of their life, Esther, the eldest child, was the one who worked and held the family together. She received a one-time permit to return to Israel, and she is determined to save her family.

In Secret/Photo: Itzik Portal

In Secret

Israel 2020, Directed by Lina Chaplin

In 15th century Spain, the “conversos” were Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism, even though at heart they remained true to their Jewish faith. Today, in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, and Haifa, there live contemporary “conversos” – Jews who belong to the Ultra-Orthodox community, yet struggle with a crisis of faith, creating a chasm between their outward and inner lives. Yet if they leave the community, they may be forever parted from their families.

Bitter Honey/Photo: Udi Kalinsky

Bitter Honey

Israel 2020, Directed by Udi Kalinsky and Revital Oren

The film’s protagonist is not famous, has not won a prize, and you have probably never heard of him, yet Yosef is engaged in a task of great importance for the future of the earth: he raises bees.  Although most urban dwellers are not as yet confronted with the harm that humanity has done to the earth, but for people like Yosef, who are trying to live in harmony with nature while earning a living, witness the damage and destruction daily.

The Red Scarf/Photo: Israel Freedman

The Red Scarf

Israel 2020, Directed by Peter Mostovoy

The film’s protagonist is a documentary filmmaker who began his career in the Soviet Union, under a communist regime. His films have become part of international cinema, and he feels removed from political issues. Yet, he cannot escape the reality of his environment, under Communist rule, and against his will, is drawn into the absurd of the Soviet regime.

Leaving Paradise/Photo: Brega-Bazera family

Leaving Paradise

Israel 2020, Directed by Ofer Freeman

The film’s protagonist fulfills a lifelong dream, leaving the big city with his wife and 15 children to establish a commune on a farm in Brazil. But research into his family’s roots uncovers startling information that threatens the continued existence of the commune.

Susita/Photo: Dani Shechtman


Israel 2020, Directed by Avi Weissblei

The Susita car is the stuff of legends and nostalgia, yet what is the true story, the one as yet untold? The film focuses on Yitzhak Shubinsky who turned a fiberglass dream into a car. This rare behind-the-scenes look at the car industry will show who pulls the strings, the deals and the connections in a sweet/sad film about a dream that disappeared.

Israeli Cinema – HERSTORY/Photo: from the Gra family album

Israeli Cinema – HERSTORY

Israel 2020, Directed by Smadar Zamir

A feminist journey through Israeli cinema, focusing on women directors of feature films. Through the story of the first Israeli woman director, Elida Gra, and monologues of 24 active directors, as well as a speech by Ronit Elkabetz, the film conveys the experience of the women who want to make their voices heard in the local film industry – a male-dominated workplace that is going through changes.

The full festival program and additional information will be available in English on the Haifa International Film Festival website.

*information on the films was provided by the festival in Hebrew, I translated and summarized.