The 37th Haifa International Film Festival has announced that its closing film will be Justin Chon’s Blue Bayou. Addressing issues of immigration policy and prejudice, the film focuses on Antonio LeBlanc (portrayed by Chon), a tattoo artist who was born in Korea, adopted and brought to the U.S. when he was three years old. Antonio had been in some trouble in the past, with two felony convictions for stealing motorcycles, but he’s put all that behind him, and is now married to Kathy (Alicia Vikander). The couple are expecting a baby, as well as raising Kathy’s daughter Jesse, from her previous relationship with Ace, a local cop. When it is discovered that Antonio’s adoptive parents did not have him naturalized as an American citizen, he comes to the attention of ICE, and he is scheduled to be deported. Although the film is fiction, the plight it describes is not. People who were born in other countries and adopted as children, and have grown up in the United States, knowing no other home, face deportation if their adoptive parents did not have them officially naturalized as American citizens. The film will hold its Israeli premiere on September 28, 2021 at the Haifa International Film Festival.
A welcome addition to the festival program is Happening, directed by Audrey Diwan, which won the Golden Lion at the 78th Venice International Film Festival. The film, with a screenplay written by Diwan and Marcia Romano, is based on Annie Ernaux’s autobiographical novel L’événement. Set in 1963, Anne, a 23-year-old literature student, portrayed by Anamaria Vartolomei, discovers that she is pregnant. At that time, abortion was illegal, and continuing her studies as a single mother would not be possible; Anne’s options are severely limited, her hopes and plans for the future derailed. Sadly, with women’s rights over their own bodies still open to challenge worldwide, (as demonstrated by the recent change in abortion law in Texas) the film’s subject is as relevant today as it was in the 60s. Happening has been acquired for distribution in Israel by Lev Cinema, and will be shown as part of the festival’s Gala program, with screenings on September 26th and 27th.
Haifa International Film Festival website: https://www.haifaff.co.il/eng