×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Haifa fest showcases low-budget pics

Filmmakers eye co-production opportunities

TEL AVIV — Haifa, a mixed city of both Arabs and Jews hugging Israel’s northern coast, is usually outshone by its big brothers Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. But for one week a year, when the Haifa Film Festival packs the weeklong harvest holiday of Sukkot with several days of independent and mainstream cinema, Haifa reminds the country of its importance on the Israeli cultural scene.

This year marks the fest’s 28th installment, with highlights including a tribute to the late Greek helmer Theodoros Angelopoulos, replete with an Israeli debut concert by piano virtuoso Eleni Karaindrou, who scored several of his films; an international marketing forum and pitching conference; and screenings including Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” which opened the fest. Other big draws are Joe Wright’s “Anna Karenina” and Rama Burshtein’s “Fill the Void,” Israel’s submission for this year’s foreign language Oscar, which Sony Pictures Classics recently bought for North America.

But off the red carpet, there is another side to the Haifa fest, one that runs more on gumption than glamour: Haifa provides an annual showcase of the best independent cinema Israel has to offer, as well as some of the most promising low-budget offerings from around the world. New York-based writer and producer David D’Arcy, the Haifa fest’s independents curator, says that not only does the festival feature retrospectives and debutantes, but that it has become extremely involved in hosting people who want to make co-productions with Israel. “Those meetings are taking place during the festival and at the festival,” he says.

D’Arcy brought one his own independent co-productions, Andrew Shea’s “Portrait of Wally,” to this year’s lineup. Other low-budget standouts, he says, are Jonathan Lisecki’s “Gayby,” about a yoga instructor’s quest for a baby; Chris Sullivan’s “Consuming Spirits,” an experimental animation piece ruminating on life in the Rust Belt; and Kristine Samuelson and John Haptas’ “Tokyo Waka,” a study of the 20,000 crows that co-exist with the human residents of Japan’s biggest city.

Samuelson and Haptas have shown their essayistic, image-driven work at fests ranging from San Francisco to Seoul. They jumped at the chance to show at Haifa, they say, thanks to its reputation as a prestigious event with seasoned viewers.

“We had heard that Haifa was a little bit more independent-minded,” Samuelson says.

Filmmakers on an even thinner shoestring are showing their work at Fringidaire, a sidebar event dedicated to the most avant-garde and low-budget pics Israel has to offer. A project from Cinema Fringe, a support organization for struggling directors created by Marat Parkhomovsky and Elad Peleg, Fringidaire is held at a nightclub adjacent to the festival. Screenings are served up with hearty portions of beer and music.

“This thing is alternative all the way,” Parkhomovsky says. “Not only the films but also the way it is done.”

Israeli director Amos Gitai says that Haifa may be so welcoming to the unconventional because it is itself unconventional.

“This is a very special place,” says Gitai, who was born and raised in the city, one of the few places in Israel where Arabs and Jews live together in actual peace. “Some of the best actors in the country are born in Haifa because it allows one to mix languages,” he adds. “When I have brought international artists to Israel, like Juliette Binoche or Jeanne Moreau or Natalie Portman, they’ve always considered Haifa fascinating.”

More Film

  • Jason Flemyng, Casting Director Lucinda Syson

    Jason Flemyng, Lucinda Syson Launch Film and TV Indie The Kernel Factory (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jason Flemyng, fellow actor Ben Starr, casting director Lucinda Syson, and finance expert Cristiano D’Urso are opening The Kernel Factory, a new U.K.-based film and TV indie. Flemyng has a long list of movie credits including “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” and Guy Ritchie’s “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking [...]

  • Hache

    ‘Hache’ Creator, Director Discuss Netflix’s Next Spanish Original, Dropping Nov. 1

    MADRID — On Nov 1 Netflix will drop its fifth Spanish original series, 1960’s-set drug smuggling drama “Hache,” produced by Madrid’s Weekend Studio for the platform. Created by Verónica Fernández and directed by Jorge Torregrossa (“La vida inesperada,” “Cocaine Coast,” “Velvet Collection”), “Hache” tells the story of Helena (Adriana Ugarte), a prostitute who ends up [...]

  • Argentina Film Lab

    Argentina to Build Country’s First Film Restoration Laboratory in Buenos Aires

    Argentina’s Instituto Nacional de Cinematografia y las Artes Audiovisuals (INCAA) and the Ministry of Culture of the City of Buenos Aires will partner to build Argentina’s first laboratory of film preservation. Minister of Culture Enrique Avogadro and INCAA president Ralph Haiek signed the agreement which will see Buenos Aires’ Pablo Ducrós Hicken Film Museum in [...]

  • The-Ancient-Law

    Lumière Festival’s MIFC Broadens International Spotlight with Focus on Germany

    The 7th Lumière Film Festival’s International Classic Film Market (MIFC) is expanding its international scope this year with more foreign companies than ever before taking part in the event, high-profile guests and an examination of Germany’s heritage cinema sector. With 17 international firms from 25 countries at the event, the MIFC has reported a 20% [...]

  • US actor Donald Sutherland poses for

    Donald Sutherland Reflects in Lyon On A Life And Career Marked By Cinema

    In a loose and free-flowing on-stage interview held at the Lumière Festival this past Sunday, Donald Sutherland reflected on his decade-spanning career with a tone that mixed personal irreverence alongside genuine veneration for the art form that brought him this far. “I love filmmakers, I really do,” said the Canadian actor, who delighted the local [...]

  • Lucky Day

    Film Review: 'Lucky Day'

    It’s been 17 long years since “Rules of Attraction” director Roger Avary has released a film, during which time he was involved in a deadly car crash, charged with gross vehicle manslaughter, saw a work furlough translated into actual prison time, and watched things go south with Video Archives amigo Quentin Tarantino over the “Pulp [...]

  • Terry Back chairman ACF

    Veteran U.K. Media Investor Terry Back Joins ACF as Chairman

    CANNES — Veteran U.K. film industry investor Terry Back has joined ACF investment bank as chairman. ACF, headed by CEO Thomas Dey, has been at the forefront of the M&A activity around independent TV and film production outfits, mostly in the unscripted TV arena. ACF is in the midst of expanding its activities in the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content