Haifa pic fest hails Costa-Gavras

Special awards go to politically relevant films

HAIFA — The 19th Haifa Film Festival kicked off Saturday with a minute’s silence for the victims of a suicide attack on a local restaurant the previous weekend that shook this bustling Mediterranean port city.

“A week ago the blast of an explosion ripped the delicate fabric of our existence in Haifa,” Mayor Yona Yahav said. “Your presence here tonight is a declaration terror will not succeed.”

Striking on the eve of Yom Kippur, a 27-year-old Palestinian woman killed 20 and injured more than 50 when she blew herself up in an Arab-Israeli restaurant frequented by Arab and Jewish clientele. Undeterred by the carnage, some 1,500 locals flocked to a gala screening of “The Human Stain” starring Anthony Hopkins as a disgraced U.S. professor who has spent most of his adult life pretending to be Jewish to hide his African-American roots.

Before the film, Haifa feted director Costa-Gavras with a lifetime achievement award. His 1983 “Hanna K,” probing the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and his more recent “Amen” were due to screen in fest to mark the event.

Haifa native Avraham Heffner, director of the 1972 Israeli classic “But Where Is Daniel Wax?” capturing the effect on Israeli society of the Yom Kippur War, received a special award for cinematic excellence.

Running until Saturday, Haifa will screen some 150 pics.

Local titles in the Israeli Film Competition include actress Michal Bat-Adam’s “Life Is Life,” produced by filmmaker Moshe Mizrahi, who first propelled her to fame in his Oscar winning “I Love You, Rosa.”

Other contenders include Eitan Green’s “Henry’s Dream,” Issac Zepel Yeshurun’s “She’s Not 17” and Shahar Segal’s “One Small Step for Man.”

Eleven titles hailing from the Mediterranean basin compete for the Golden Anchor, including Jacques Doillon’s “Raja,” Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Uzak” and Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad’s “Rana’s Wedding.”

Latter is only Palestinian title in the lineup. Its lead actress Clara Khoury hails from Haifa’s Arab-Israeli community.

“There aren’t that many Palestinian films coming out,” fest’s artistic director Pnina Blayer said.

“I would like to include more Arab films but we just can’t get them,” she adds.

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