Haifa International Film Festival 2021: Opening Film

STILLWATER (2021)/Photo courtesy of the Haifa Film Festival

Stillwater, Academy Award winning director Tom McCarthy’s new film, will open the 37th Haifa Film Festival on September 19, 2021. Suspenseful and incisive, McCarthy’s 2015 drama Spotlight focused on the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team who investigated and exposed sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in the Boston area, winning Best Screenplay and Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Stillwater is also a drama inspired by true events, and stars Matt Damon as Bill, an oil rig worker whose daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin) has been convicted of murdering her roommate and lover Lina, while studying abroad in Marseille. The film focuses on Bill’s relationship with his daughter, as well as Virginie (Camille Cottin), a French woman who helps him in his efforts to uncover the truth. The film premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival and will be distributed in Israel by Lev Cinema.

Special Events

Image of Victory/Photo: Amit Yasur

A screening of Avi Nesher’s new film Image of Victory. Nominated for 15 Ophir Awards, including Best Picture, Nesher’s film takes place during the War of Independence, and looks at both the Israeli and the Egyptian sides. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion on the way narratives are devised and employed to encourage soldiers to go to war. There will also be a screening of Stanley Kubrick’s 1957 anti-war film Paths of Glory, followed by a discussion of ground-breaking anti-war cinema with cinema scholar Shmulik Duvdevani and Avi Nesher.

Hagai Levi will participate in a conversation on his remake of Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage starring Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain. Levi will discuss his creative process, casting and decision making in the course of working on the five-part series. Scenes from a Marriage was produced by HBO and premiered at the 2021 Venice Film Festival.

The Band’s Visit/Photo: Meir Raguan

A tribute concert to composer Habib Shadah will take place at the festival, with special arrangements to his works for the cinema. The concert will include his compositions from the films: The Band’s Visit, Let It Be Morning, Lemon Tree, and Holy Air.

Celebrating Sesame Street! Marilyn Agrelo’s film Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street documents the ground-breaking show that has delighted children and adults for over half a century. In addition to the screening, there will be an online discussion with the film’s creators as well as an event for children in the festival garden.

International Films

The festival will present several diverse programs of films, including the Golden Anchor Competition for debut films, the Carmel International Competition, Culinary Cinema, Classics, and Haifa’s Wildest Nights, in addition to the Israeli feature and documentary competitions.

New films from esteemed directors and award-winning films to be shown at the festival include:

Drive My Car, co-written and directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, is based on the eponymous short story by Haruki Murkami. The film was awarded Best Screenplay, the FIPRESCI Prize and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at Cannes 2021. Hamaguchi’s Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, which won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the 71st Berlin International Film Festival, will also be shown in Haifa.

Minari/Photo courtesy of the Haifa Film Festival

Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari follows a Korean-American family as they pursue the American Dream. The film premiered at Sundance, winning the U.S. Grand Jury Award as well as the Audience Award, and was nominated in six categories at the Oscars. Youn Yah-jug won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Shirley, Josephine Decker’s biographical drama, based on the eponymous novel by Susan Scarf Merrell, focuses on the life of author Shirley Jackson. The film stars Elizabeth Moss and premiered at Sundance, where Decker won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Auteur Filmmaking. Another literature-inspired film is Pedro Almodóvar’s short The Human Voice, based on Jean Cocteau’s play of the same name, starring Tilda Swinton. Diving into the world of fairytales, Laila Pakalnina re-envisions the tale of Snow White, with In the Mirror. Set in a fitness gym, the film explores contemporary obsession with body perfection and selfie culture.

The full schedule will be available on the Haifa International Film Festival website: https://www.haifaff.co.il/eng