Saint Omer, the film that won the Grand Jury Prize and was awarded Best Debut Feature at the 2022 Venice Film Festival, will open the 11th edition of the Arava International Film Festival. The Arava International Film Festival will take place from November 9 – 19, 2022, in the beautiful landscape of the Ashush Natural Reserve in the Arava region of the Southern Negev. Connecting nature and culture, a diverse program of international and Israeli films are shown on a giant screen under the night sky.
The classic story of Medea, and the moral issues raised therein, reverberate in documentary filmmaker Alice Diop’s first fictional work, concerning Laurence (Guslagie Malanda), a mother accused of killing her infant. The facts of the case are not in dispute, Laurence confesses to the act, yet pleads not guilty. The trial is seen from the perspective of Rama (Kayije Kagame), a young novelist who has come to Saint Omer to cover the proceedings. Guslagie Malanda will be a guest of the festival and will present Saint Omer in a second screening that will take place two days after the opening.
Tribute to Nuri Bilge Ceylan
The esteemed film director, screenwriter, and photographer will be coming to Israel for the first time as the festival’s guest of honor. A retrospective of Ceylan’s award-winning films will be shown at the festival, including: Climates, Three Monkeys, Winter Sleep, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, The Wild Pear Tree, and his first short film Cocoon. The Ashush Art Gallery in the Zuqim Artists Village will host the exhibit “Aklimim” (Climates), which will include nine of Ceylan’s large photographic works that will be flown in from his collection in Istanbul. Ceylan, who was also the cinematographer on his early films, will conduct a master class at the gallery. Accompanying Ceylan will be his artistic and life partner, screenwriter Ebru Ceylan and their son.
EO, Jury Prize Winner at Cannes 2022, will be screened in the presence of the film’s director Jerzy Skolimowski, screenwriter Ewa Piaskowska and producer Jeremy Thomas. The festival will celebrate the long-standing collaboration between Skolimowski and Thomas with screenings of their joint film The Shout (1978), as well as Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Sheltering Sky (1990), which was produced by Thomas, and Four Nights with Anna (2008), which Skolimowki co-wrote with Piaskowska and which has never been theatrically released in Israel.
The festival will present a harvest of this year’s best film, many of them award-winners at leading festivals:
The Worst Ones, awarded Prix Un Certain Regard at the 2022 Cannes festival, will be screened in the presence of Lise Akoka, who co-wrote and directed the film with Romane Gueret. The film focuses on a director who comes to a working-class neighborhood to cast young non-professional actors in his upcoming film. Powerful, moving performances illuminate the different ways in which their participation in the film affects the young actors.
Another perspective on the struggles of youth may be seen in Alexandru Belc’s quietly profound Metronom. Winner of the Un Certain Regard award for directing at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, Belc will be a guest of the festival. Set in 1972 Romania, under the rule of Communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu, the coming-of-age story is depicted entirely from the perspective of Ana (Mara Bugarin), a teenager in love. It’s Romeo and Juliet with a twist, for the circumstances of these star-crossed lovers are more complex, entangled with wider political and moral considerations. Belc takes his time to develop the narrative, closely following events from Ana’s lovelorn perspective, enhancing the suspense and impact as the viewer experiences Ana’s awakening knowledge and understanding.
Director Hlynur Pálmason will return to the festival for the second time, with his film Godland, which premiered in the Un Certain Regard program at Cannes. Set in the late 19th century, against the breath-taking landscape of Iceland, the film focuses on a priest from Denmark who is sent to establish a new church in a rural area.
Lukas Dhont’s achingly beautiful film Close, winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes, and Belgium’s submission for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film at the 95th Academy Awards, will be screened at the festival. A piercingly honest coming-of-age film, illuminated by its young actors’ moving performances, and exquisite cinematography.
Michal Vinik’s film, Valeria is Getting Married, comes to the Arava International Film Festival directly after receiving the Israeli Best Feature Award at the Haifa International Film Festival. The film follows two women and their choices in life – Christina, who has been married to an Israeli for several years, and her sister Valeria, who has arrived from the Ukraine to follow in her sisters’ footsteps and meet the Israeli man she is to marry. Taut and precise, the film explores the relationships and characters of its protagonists, with intelligence, sensitivity and humor.
Israeli premiere screenings of international films include:
Charlotte Wells’ Aftersun, in which Sophie, a young woman, recalls a summer vacation with her father; Rebecca Zlotowski’s film Other People’s Children, comes to the Arava following its Venice premiere, and takes a sensitive look at parenting and family; Genki Kawamura’s A Hundred Flowers focuses on the relationship between a man and his aging mother; Claire Denis received the Silver Bear at the Berlinale for directing Both Sides of the Blade, which stars Juliette Binoche in a romantic triangle set against the Paris winter; Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Broker stars Song Kang-ho, who was awarded Best Actor at Cannes for his role as a baby trafficker; Ukrainian director Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk will unfortunately not be able to attend the festival, but will be well represented by his film Pamfir, about a man who will go to great lengths to help his family; Thomas Salvador directed and stars in The Mountain, winner of the SACD prize in the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes, that follows the story of a Parisian engineer who comes to the Alps, and falls in love with the majesty of nature; Florian Zeller’s The Son – the second part of his trilogy – follows Peter as he struggles to be a good father to 17-year-old Nicholas as well as the new baby from his second marriage.
The festival places a strong emphasis on nurturing local creativity and talent. The Arava Film Foundation, founded by the festival with the Regional Community Culture Center and Gesher Film Fund presents its flagship project “Katzar BaMidbar” – supporting the production of short films by regional filmmakers. This year, an expanded program of nine films will premiere at the festival, six features and three documentaries. The screening of Katzar BaMidbar short films will be followed by a screening of Yona Rosenkier’s Downhill 35, which won Best Israeli Feature at the Jerusalem Film Festival 2022.
Films for all ages include the animated film Even Mice Belong in Heaven, and the beloved classic – The Wizard of Oz.
The full program and ticket information may be found on the Arava International Film Festival website.
The Arava International Film Festival is the initiative of producer Eyal Shiray in cooperation with the Central Arava Regional Council. The festival is supported by the Central Arava Regional Council, The Ministry of Culture and Sport Film Council, Mifal HaPais, The Ministry of Tourism, and the Ministry of Regional Cooperation. The festival is produced and directed by Eyal and Tinker Shiray.