Haifa International Film Festival 2021: Recommendations


There’s a diverse and rich program at this year’s Haifa International Film Festival. There are so many intriguing films that it’s hard to choose! Here are some that I’ve seen and strongly recommend:

Petite Maman/Photo courtesy of the Haifa International Film Festival

Petite Maman

Love, loss, and the desire for connection illuminate Céline Sciamma’s Petite Maman, from the perspective of a child. Relating to the world around her with intelligence and feeling, 8-year-old Nelly is first seen in a home for the elderly, going from room to room and saying goodbye. There is something stoic in her walk as she approaches the room that was her grandmother’s, where her mother Marion is packing the few remaining items, and contending with her own feelings. As they drive to the grandmother’s house, where Marion grew up, to close it up, Nelly reaches out from the back seat to share her crunchy snack with her mother, feeding her in an amusing role reversal, a silent gesture of caring. Petite maman conveys the closeness and distance between mother and child, each reaching out to one another, yet each in the solitude of her own existence, and all that remains unspoken. Sciamma enters the world of childhood with ease and honesty as Nelly explores of the woods surrounding her grandmother’s home. There is a certain freedom in childhood, when there is so much of the world you do not know, and the distance between imagination and everyday life is not so vast. Petite Maman is a beautiful ‘what if’ – Sciamma takes us there, in an imaginative way, to experience a few days in Nelly’s life that are full of wonder. Petite Maman will be shown on Saturday, September 25, 2021

Roaring 20s/Photo courtesy of the Haifa International Film Festival

Roaring 20s

During the days and months of pandemic and lockdown, I kept in close touch with family and friends, yet ardently missed the random encounter, the people on the street, on the bus, in the shops, the fragments of conversations, those ephemeral insights into other lives. In Roaring 20s, director Elisabeth Vogler (a pseudonym) captures the vibrant feel of a city come to life – Paris in the summer of 2020. The pandemic is always there, yet the references are oblique, as people pull on masks before entering the Metro, or the distressed Julie says “I can see all the pain I didn’t want to see.” Beginning at the Louvre, the camera takes the viewer through Paris, on foot, bicycle and scooter, in one continuous take, moving smoothly from one encounter to another in a film that is as breath-taking in its technique, as it is emotionally resonant. As the focus moves from one person or group of people to another, the viewer hears parts of stories – the meaningfully named Ambre and Blanche walk along the Seine talking about art and more; Lilou and Lila, two pre-teen girls giving each other a mini-make-over in the street; a stunning scene – funny and poignant – with a bride; a poem composed while riding a bike… and so much more… Roaring 20s will be shown on Sunday, September 26, 2021

In Front of Your Face/Photo courtesy of the Haifa International Film Festival

In Front of Your Face

Hong Sang-Soo’s In Front of Your Face is a tender film, illuminated by the radiant performance of Lee Hye-young as Sangok. After an absence of many years, Sangok returns to Korea to visit her sister and nephew. Sitting on the couch drinking coffee while her sister (Cho Yunhee) sleeps on, Sangok reaches out and almost touches her sister’s hand. Understated and modest, the film follows these small moments as Sangok goes through the day, talking to her sister and visiting her nephew’s restaurant. There is an awkwardness between the sisters, perhaps also resentment, following years without contact. Yet there is also sincere affection. As one learns more about Sangok and her life, each small moment and gesture acquires depth and significance, echoing Sangok’s affirmation to herself: “Everything I see before me is grace.” In Front of Your Face will be shown Thursday, September 23, 2021

The full program and link for ticket purchase may be found on the Haifa International Film Festival website: https://www.haifaff.co.il/eng