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Haifa Intl. Film Festival

When: Oct. 14-21

Where: Haifa, Israel

Festival dir.: Pnina Blayer

Web: haifaff.co.il

Celebrating its 24th edition this year, Haifa is Israel’s oldest film festival. With a special focus on Mediterranean cinema, this year’s fest will boast three competitive sections: the Golden Anchor competish for Mediterranean films, the Fipresci prize for first- and second-time filmmakers, and a special competish for new Israeli helmers.

While Haifa has always prided itself on its international selection, this year the fest is going big on Israeli cinema. The Israeli helmers competish will feature 10 new Israeli films, more than double the number that were featured in the rival Jerusalem Film Fest, which unspooled in July (Jerusalem’s Wolgin Awards only featured four new Israeli films).

While this year’s Jerusalem edition was somewhat marred by the growing number of Israeli filmmakers eager to keep their new projects for international fests rather than local events, Haifa organizers haven’t encountered any difficulty in convincing Israeli helmers to take part.

“On the contrary, we’re getting many Israeli films,” says fest director Pnina Blayer. “Israeli cinema is hot in the world right now. We’re the lucky festival this year when it comes to attracting Israeli films.”

The fest will be holding a special retrospective in honor of Hollywood’s last golden age in the 1970s.

Fest organizers are also hoping to convince more Arab filmmakers to take part in the Golden Anchor competish. While films from North African countries like Morocco and Tunisia, as well as Palestinian filmmakers, regularly compete for the prize, many other Arab helmers — most notably those in Egypt — tend to boycott the fest in view of the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict.

“Let’s not be naive,” says Blayer. “We can’t be sure of films from the Arab world coming. It isn’t easy.”

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