An intriguing harvest of new, exciting, and thought-provoking international films will be shown at the 39th Haifa International Film Festival, which will take place from September 28 – October 7, 2023. Many are award winners from recent leading film festivals, such as Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest, winner of the Grand Prix and FIPRESCI Prize at the 76th Cannes Film Festival, which will hold its Israeli premiere at the festival. This year’s program features several films with themes of resistance and the fight for freedom. A special focus on new Iranian Films, will include films by Mehran Tamadon and Steffi Niederzoll, who will be guests of the festival. In the spirit of films on the struggle for freedom, the festival’s closing film will be Io Capitano, an odyssey of immigration which follows two Senegalese men, Seydou and Moussa, as they make their way from Dakar to Europe. The film’s director, Matteo Garrone, won the Silver Lion for Best Director at the 80th Venice Film Festival, and Seydou Sarr won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for his performance in the film.
Among the films focusing on the struggle for freedom are:
Europa, directed by Sudabeh Mortezai, follows Beate (Lilith Stangenberg), an executive working for Europa, a corporation looking to expand its territory. Under the guise of investing in underdeveloped areas, the corporation seeks to buy lands from locals in Southern Albania, with Beate as their representative and negotiator. However, she runs into difficulties when Jetnor (Jetnor Gorezi), a local farmer, refuses to leave his land. The film’s director, Sudabeh Mortezai, will be a guest of the festival.
Libertate, directed by Tudor Giurgiu, focuses on the Transylvanian city of Sibiu, during the days of the December 1989 revolution that overthrew the Communist regime in Romania. An assault on a police unit escalates into a violent confrontation between soldiers, policemen, civilian protesters, and the secret police. In his attempt to escape the siege, police captain Viorel (Alex Calandiu) is captured by the army. Tudor Giurgiu will be a guest of the festival.
In his feature film debut, The Settlers, Felipe Gálvez Haberle looks at Chile’s colonial past with a film set in 1901, that follows three horsemen who are hired by a wealthy landowner to mark out the perimeter of his property. But the expedition turns into a “civilizing” raid. The film was chosen as Chile’s entry for Best International Film at the 96th Academy Awards.
Rolf de Heer’s The Survival of Kindness won the FIPRESCI Award for Best Film at the 73rd Berlinale. The film follows BlackWoman (Mwajemi Hussein), who is abandoned in a cage on a trailer in the middle of the desert and left to die. She refuses to accept this fate, and escapes the cage, determined to make her way to the city.
Award winning films to be shown at the festival include:
Evil Does Not Exist, directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, which won the Grand Jury Prize and FIPRESCI Award at the 80th Venice Film Festival. The latest film from the director of Drive My Car and Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, is set in the rural village of Harasawa, where single parent Takumi lives with his daughter Hana. The two lead a serene life in the beauty of nature, as Takumi makes a living doing odd jobs for neighbors. The peaceful region is disrupted by the arrival of Playmode, a company about to begin construction of a glamping site for tourists.
Wim Wender’s Perfect Days also focuses on a humble character, Hirayama (Kōji Yakusho), who works as a toilet cleaner in Tokyo. The film, which is structured as four short stories, won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the 76th Cannes Film Festival, and Kōji Yakusho received the award for Best Actor. The film was selected as Japan’s entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 96th Academy Awards.
Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall won the Palme d’Or at the 76th Cannes Film Festival. Sandra Hüller stars as Sandra, a German writer whose husband falls to his death under mysterious circumstances. Living in a remote location with only their vision-impaired son as witness, Sandra is accused of murdering her husband and must stand trial.
Inspired by the character of the gourmet created by Marcel Rouff in his novel La Vie et la passion de Dodin-Bouffant, Tran Anh Hùng’s Pot-au-Feu (released in the US as The Taste of Things) is set in 1885 and depicts a romance between a cook and her gourmet employer. Tran Anh Hùng was awarded Best Director at the 76th Cannes Film Festival. Canine afficionados take note – the film also was awarded the Palm Dog.
Kore-eda Hirokazu’s Monster, with a screenplay by Yuji Sakamoto, explores the experience of a mother (Sakura Andō) whose son Minato begins to behave strangely. She discovers that a teacher is responsible and storms into the school demanding answers. The film was awarded Best Screenplay and Queer Palm at Cannes.
İlker Çatak’s The Teacher’s Lounge won the Arthouse Cinema Award at the 73rd Berlin Film Festival, as well as the Label Europa Cinemas Award. Leonie Benesh, who will be a guest of the Haifa Film Festival, stars as Carla Nowak, a dedicated teacher who resolves to uncover the truth when a series of thefts occurs in the school. The film was selected to represent Germany in the competition for Best International Feature at the 96th Academy Awards.
Blaga’s Lessons, directed by Stephan Komandarev, was awarded the Crystal Globe at the 57th Karlovy Vary Film Festival. A 70-year-old retired teacher with a strict moral code, Blaga finds herself in a quandary when scammers con her out of the money she had saved for her husband’s grave. Director Stephan Komandarev will be a guest at the Haifa Film Festival.
Director Sofia Exarchou will be a guest at the Haifa Film Festival with her film Animal, that looks at the lives of entertainers at an all-inclusive island resort in Greece. Dimitra Vlagopoulou stars as the dancer Kalia, a role for which she was awarded Best Performance at the 77th Locarno Film Festival.
Paola Cortellesi directs and stars in her debut feature There is Still Tomorrow. Set in the mid-1940s, the film focuses on Delia (Cortellesi), wife to Ivano (Valerio Mastandrea), and mother to their three children. She accepts Ivano’s role as head of the household, and her own role as caregiver, finding respite in her friendship with Marisa (Emanuela Fanelli).
The full program will be available on the Haifa Film Festival website. https://www.haifaff.co.il/eng