top of page
  • Talma Gotteiner

Haifa: The 35th International Film Festival

Hi there,

The Haifa International Film Festival, the first of its kind in Israel, was inaugurated in 1983 and quickly gained a reputation as an important international cinematic event. The festival attracts some 300,000 visitors who attend screenings of about 200 new films from around the world, live concerts and outdoor screenings for the whole family. The festival celebrates the artistic achievements in new Israeli cinema and its uncompromising, diverse character which addresses issues of Israeli society and pluralism.

Besides film screenings, the festival presents a rich nightly program of cultural events open to the public, including live music, outdoor film screenings and activities along the Carmel Ridge and downtown areas of Haifa.

This year's festival encompasses the following events:

  • 3 International competitions

  • Israeli film competitions and premieres

  • 16th International Pitching Forum

  • 9th Cinemarket work in pregress screenings

  • 6th Int'l TV series meetings

  • 4th Int'l VR conference and screenings

  • Lively outdoor events

The Haifa International Film Festival is supported by the Israel Film Council, the Ministry of Culture and Sport, the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Regional Cooperation and the Haifa Municipality. The Festival is produced by ETHOS - The Haifa Municipality Art, Culture and Sports Association Company and is led by Artistic Director Pnina Blayer.

WHEN: 12-21 October 2019

Above: From the Israeli documentary film "100 Million Views". Photo by Avner Shahaf, courtesy of Yes-Docu.

***THE FILMS****


76 Israeli films will be screened at this year's festival with 6 New Titles in Haifa’s Israeli Feature Film Competition.

ISRAELI FEATURE COMPETITION: 1. Africa, Dir.: Oren Gerner - Feature Debut (Africa comes to Haifa from its world premiere in the Toronto Festival.) 2. The Art of Waiting, Dir.: Erez Tadmor – World premiere 3. Golden Voices, Dir.: Evgeny Ruman – World premiere 4. Mirage - Dir.: David Ben Ari – World premiere 5. Mr. Kohl's Final Hour - Dir.: Doron Eran – World premiere 6. Reborn, Dir: Yaron Shani – World premiere 7. Happy Times, Dir: Michael Mayer – World premiere

1. Africa

Cast: Meir Gerner, Maya Gerner, Oren Gerner

82 min. | Hebrew | Hebrew and English subtitles

Meir, a 68-year-old retired engineer, discovers that he has not been asked to plan the annual village ceremony, which he’s done for the past thirty years. The task has now been given to a younger man. Director Oren Gerner ponders aging and family in a time of transition in this inventive quasi-factual feature about an elderly man (played by Gerner’s father) seeking purpose and meaning as the years tick by. Africa comes to Haifa from its world premiere in the Toronto Festival.

2. The Art of Waiting

Cast: Roy Assaf, Nelly Tagar, Eli Gorenstein, Rami Heuberger, Eran Pesach, Eyal Rozales, Rivka Bahar, Ilan Dar, Tom Antopolsky

90 min. | Hebrew | Hebrew and English subtitles

Liran and Tali, a couple in their thirties, dream of having a child. The couple is told that they will have to undergo fertility treatments. They discover that to parent a child, they will have to embark on a long journey, full of hardships, with all the physical and mental difficulties that come with it, family pressures and, of course, the challenge it poses to the couple's relationship. Will their love survive?

3. Golden Voices

Cast: Vladimir Friedman, Maria Belkin, Evelin Hagoel, Alexander Senderovich, Uri Klauzner, Nadia Kucher, Vitali Voskoboinikov 88 min. | Hebrew, Russian | Hebrew and English subtitles

Victor and Raya Frenkel were the golden voices of the Soviet film dubbing. In 1990, with the collapse of USSR, they decide to immigrate to Israel, just like hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews. Victor and Raya’s attempts to use their distinctive talent in a country that doesn’t need it will turn the beginning of the new chapter of their life into an amusing, painful, and absurd experience.

4. Mirage

Cast: Moshiko Sror, Lior Miller, Viktor Sabag, Moshik Cohen, Kim Hen, Nimrod Bergman 83 min. | Hebrew | Hebrew and English subtitles

Two very different men find themselves sharing a night of danger and suspense: 19-year-old Ami, a killer turned state witness, and 52-year-old Itzhak, head of a religious yeshiva. They have to combine forces if they are to save the woman they both love, 17-year-old Moriya, Itzhak’s daughter. Moriya has been kidnapped by the felons against whom Ami is supposed to testify. During this long night of twists and turns, Ami and Itzhak discover that they are more similar than they ever could have imagined.

5. Mr. Kohl's Final Hour

Cast: Ohad Shachar 80 min. | Hebrew | English subtitles

Mickey Kohl has one hour before he will enter prison for an assault on a judge who has ruled against him in a case. Kohl is at the entrance to the prison when he receives a phone call from the courthouse librarian - she has information that might change the verdict of the trial that has cost him his wife, his career and his freedom. Mr. Kohl's Final Hour is based on the award-winning play by Joshua Sobol.

6. Reborn

Cast: Stav Almagor, Ori Shani, Leah Tonic 108 min. | Hebrew | English subtitles

Dark secrets are taking apart the lives of three women. As they reach their most frightening verge, a loving bond offers the opportunity to change and be reborn. REBORN is part of Shani's Love Trilogy, an epic project which presents a unique filmmaking approach which is blurring the lines between fiction and real life.


1. The Electrifiers, Dir.: Boaz Armoni – World premiere

2. Nelson - Dir.: Ludi Boeken – World premiere

1. The Electrifiers

Cast: Zvika Nathan, Tal Friedman, Eli Yatzpan, Sharon Alexander, Uri Hochman, Yigal Adika, Tamara Klingon, Elisha Banai, Ella Armoni 90 min. | Hebrew | Hebrew and English subtitles

The Electrifiers won the 1984 Best New Artist Award for a smash hit which no one remembers, and have been stuck in traffic on the fast track to international stardom ever since. Thirty years later, the band members continue to drag themselves between gigs at nursing houses and cheap B&Bs while their lead singer still believes he is a 20-year-old rocker. But just as everyone is about to become completely fed up with him, a surprising opportunity presents itself, which could propel the Electrifiers straight to the top. A heartfelt comedy about a group of washed-up pop musicians, The Electrifiers’ cast includes cameo appearances by real-life 1980s Israeli pop icons.

2. Nelson

Cast: Paul Diaconescu, Julia Levy Boeken, Cristian Balint, Eitan Anner, Tamar Keenan, Theo Thorn Neagu 79 min. | Hebrew, Romanian and French | Hebrew and English subtitles

This saga of Israeli soldier ELIAHU B. (later known as “Tony Nelson”) unfolds at the 1955 Court Martial in which he stands accused of desertion for 846 days - during which he made his way via Italy to France and eventually to the swamps of Vietnam, in search of justice – and revenge. NELSON is inspired by a true story.

DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION: (4 of the 8 in competition are female directors): 1. 100 Million Views, Dir.: Itamar Rose, Feature-Length Debut 2. Absolute Happiness, Dir.: Aviv Or Meshulam - world premiere 3. Bukra fil Mish-Mish, Dir.: Tal Michael - world premiere 4. Crossings, Dir.: Itzik Lerner - world premiere 5. Kuya Noy, Dir.: Daniel Binsted - world premiere, Feature-Length Debut 6. Refuge, Dir.: Ayelet Dekel - world premiere 7. The Prophet, Dir..: Ilan Rubin Fields - world premiere 8. Underground Ballet, Dir.: Lina Chaplin - world premiere

1. 100 Million Views 58 min. | Hebrew, English | Hebrew and English subtitles

Itamar Rose, a satirical-activist creator and a failed YouTuber, sets out to uncover the secret of how a video goes viral on YouTube, and reaches 100 million views. With dark humor and caustic wit, Rose takes us (and his family) on a wild global journey to the evolution of YouTube. From surprising encounters with legendary viral YouTube stars, to the YouTubers industry and into the forces and dynamics behind the screen - Rose reveals the untold truths about how YouTube and the viral world really works.

2. Absolute Happiness

60 min. | Hebrew | Hebrew and English subtitles

“I was sixteen years old when my older sister Rachel moved to Kibbutz Neot Smadar. Many rumors spread about this secluded place that some saw as a sect headed by a Guru Josef Safra. But, like my sister, I saw it as heaven on earth and longed to visit there every time possible, drawn to this magical oasis with its radiant members. When Rachel decides to leave the place after fifteen years, I went on a journey to understand why and reveal the hidden story.”

3. Bukra fil Mish-Mish 70 min. | Hebrew, English and French | Hebrew and English subtitles

Shortly after the death of his unique uncles, Didier Frenkel descends to the basement of their shared home and finds a treasure: an ancient animated archive from Egypt starring Mish-Mish Effendi, the Arabic equivalent of Mickey Mouse. His uncles have kept this surprising chapter in their lives under cover. Didier begins restoring the films and unveils the story of the rise and fall of these pioneers of Arab animation. Surprisingly, Didier’s mother strongly opposes the project.

4. Crossings 86 min. | Hebrew | Hebrew and English subtitles

Mika, Yuval, and Ben were recruited to the Military Police Corps despite their conscientious objection. For the first time in their lives, young men and women face the constant and painful friction with the Palestinians. Locked in a fortified position day and night, in cold or hot weather, wearing heavy bullet-proof vests, these soldiers are trained to believe that at last everything drains into the fate of both nations.

5. Kuya Noy 50 min. | Hebrew, English, Tagalog | Hebrew subtitles

KUYA NOY is the story of Noy, a Filipino rock legend who found himself living in the slums of Tel Aviv, barely scraping by, father to an Israeli daughter who is about to begin her military service. During the late 70's, under martial law, Noy founded ASIN, a music band that symbolized liberalism. Now, at the age of 61 and for the first time in many years, he will pick up his old guitar and dare to dream of a new future.

6. Refuge 61 min. | Hebrew, Arabic | Hebrew and English subtitles

'Refuge' provides a unique, unprecedented glimpse into the day-to-day life of women in shelters for domestic violence victims. The film portrays a year in the life of residents and shelter staff in three shelters with vastly different populations, ethnicities and religious inclinations. It documents a feminine togetherness which, in spite of tough circumstances, produces an empowering, stimulating and inspiring incubator. In the #MeToo era, the voice of women being abused and attacked on a daily basis, and taking back control of their lives, can now be heard.

7. The Prophet 68 min. | Hebrew, English | Hebrew and English subtitles

Rabbi Meir Kahane - an activist turned terrorist, politician and martyr. The story of Kahanism, the American born ideology which was popularized in the Holy Land, died alongside its leader and revived in Israel today.

8. Underground Ballet 53 min. | Hebrew | Hebrew and English subtitles

When fans of the football club of Beitar Jerusalem make their way to Teddy Stadium, they hardly ever notice Nadia as she enters and makes her way to a classical ballet studio beneath the bleachers. The ceiling trembles, the cheering fills the room, but the studio remains isolated from Jerusalem’s reality. A decade ago Nadia and her mother, Nina Timofeyeva, a prima ballerina at the Bolshoi Ballet, left Moscow for Jerusalem and set up the studio. It was a professional suicide. Ballet and football make for a surrealistic combination.

ISRAELI DOCUMENTARIES NOT IN THE ISRAELI DOC COMPETITION: 1. I Was Not Born a Mistake, Dir, Pro.: Rachel Rusinek, Eyal Ben Moshe (This film will be screened in Between Jewish and Israeli Identity Competition) - world premiere 2. The Mystery of the Black Book, Dir.: Boris Maftsir - world premiere

1. I Was Not Born a Mistake 52 min. | English and Hebrew | Hebrew and English subtitles

Yaakov Smith was an ultra-orthodox married man with six children and a pillar of his community, when he left his family, his community, and Israel. It took him 20 years to return - only this time as an observant woman. The documentary by Rachel Rusinek and Eyal Ben Moshe touches honestly and openly on a subject that is both relevant and unspoken. It is also a film about self-acceptance, compassion, love, and family.

2. The Mystery of the Black Book 70 min. | English, Russian, Hebrew | Hebrew and English subtitles

In October 1947, the "Black Book" was to be published in Moscow - a collection of testimonies and articles about the murder of two million and seven hundred thousand Jews under Nazi occupation in the Soviet Union. The book was shelved by the authorities. As if the Holocaust of Soviet Jews had never occurred at all. Why did Stalin decide to hide the solid and documented evidence of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union?

*** INDUSTRY EVENTS*** Curated by Ruth Lev-Ari

The Festival’s prestigious industry events bring professionals from all over the world, writers, directors, producers, distributors, broadcasters to celebrate our art and craft and initiate collaborations for the future. Participants this year include Lee Mason, drama commissioner Channel 4, Kerem Ayan, Istanbul Film Festival Director + more (see below).

TELEVISION EVENTS: Haifa Television Series in its 6th year is expanding: 3 new TV series premiering in Haifa on big screen before moving to the small screen:

THE MIDDLEMAN, by Shira Geffen and Etgar Keret – international premiere, 4 episodes, produced by Yael Fogiel - Les Filmes du Poisson for ARTE. A homeless real estate agent who gets legal consulting from his Goldfish discovers that he can travel in time. David Lynch meets Charlie Chaplin in a unique take that tries to take a humorous peek into the darkest corners of our subconscious.Yael Fogiel (Les Filmes du Poisson) will present the screening in Haifa.

UNCHAINED – world premiere, a series by Madmoni, Tamar Kay and David Ofek, Yossi, produced by Kan, Herzelia Studios (United Studios of Israel), The Gesher Film Fund, AVI CHAI Fund, Mifal HaPayis, The Israel Film Council, Ministry of Culture and Sports. Hunting husbands and unchaining wives, Rabbi Yoseph Morad discovers that the real mystery happens in his own home with his wife Hannah. Creators and cast to present screening.

THE GRAVE – world premiere, creator Omri Givon (When Heroes Fly), produced by the Drama Team (Haim Sharir and Mosh Danon) and Federation Entertainment for Keshet 12. Thriller and mystery drama: An earthquake in northern Israel reveals a pit in the ground, and in it are three skeletons. The police investigation encounters a mystery with no reasonable explanation.

Creator and cast to present screening.

*TV Talk roundtable discussion: “THE WORLD OF THE STORY - DIGGING DEEPER”: speakers include Agnieszka Holland, Lee Mason (UK Channel 4 drama commissioner), Karen Hassan (Gomorrah), Yael Fogiel (The Middleman producer), Chaim Sharir, producer, Drama Team, THE GRAVE for Keshet 12.


*International Pitching Forum for the development of dramas and films

*Cinemarket-Work in Progress Competition (the POST REPUBLIC POST PRODUCTION AWARD)

*Training Masterclasses include Stephan Elliot (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert), Agneiszka Holland (Chair of European Academy, director of MR. JONES, SPOOR, EUROPA EUROPA, episodes of HOUSE OF CARDS, THE WIRE, THE KILLING, THE AFFAIR), Lee Mason, drama commissioner Channel 4, François Yon, Playtime Group and Guy Nattiv (Won 2019 Oscar for best live-action short film Skin. HaifaFF is screening the feature-length Skin). The forum hosts representatives of major international production companies who conduct dialogue with representatives of Israel film industry on possible future collaboration.

*The Historical Project by the Media and Film Collaborative of Gesher Multicultural Film Fund, AVI CHAI Foundation and Maimonides Fund (Israel) announced at HaifaFF. We will have a special event and discussion of Who's Afraid of History? for the promotion of a film or TV series based on Jewish History and Hebrew Literature.


A program designed for Israeli scriptwriters developing scripts in English for the international market. Haifa Script Distillery is an initiative of Tadmor Entertainment in partnership with Keshet International and in collaboration with Endeavor Content, the Rabinovich Foundation-Israel Cinema Project and in collaboration with the Haifa International Film Festival.

Distillery projects developed this year presenting: FILM: AMOR 1 by Yaelle Kayam; HOLY LAND by Ariel Weisbrod and Hadar Tadmor; ONE AND ALL by Carmite Levite.

TV: THE CLUB by Mor Kpalansky and Shira Hadad; THE APPEAL by Yael Segal and Yair Asher; THE SPIN DOCTORS by Zoe Levornik.


Carmel International Film Competition jury: Krzysztof Zanussi (head of jury) - Poland Dina Zvi-Riklis - Israel Guy Nattiv – Israel/US Hagar Kot - Israel

Golden Anchor Competition (for international debut films) jury: Evgenia Dodina - Israel Beki Probst - Germany Ran Tal - Israel

Between Jewish and Israeli Identity competition jury (international competition): Hélène Schoumann - Israel Alon Garbuz - Israel Amnon Zlayet - Israel

Israeli Feature Competition jury: Sarig Peker - UK Ophir Leibovitch - Israel János Szász– Hungary

Israeli Documentary Competition jury: Gidi Orsher - Israel Estee Yacov-Mecklberg – Israel

Israeli Short Film Competition jury: (all jury members from Israel) Moran Ifergan Hadas Yaron Benjamin Chiram


INTL STUDIO FILMS: Among the films included in Haifa’s Gala section: Ford v Ferrari (opening film) Motherless Brooklyn (closing film) Judy (coming to Haifa straight from premiere in Toronto) Beanpole The Goldfinch The Peanut Butter Falcon Blackbird Who You Think I Am Skin The White Crow Photograph Deerskin Seberg

Among the films competing in Carmel International Film Competition: La belle epoque, While at War, Out Stealing Horses, Omar and Us, Pirhanas, No. 7 Cherry Lane (won prize in Venice).

Among the Golden Anchor films: Noah Land.

Among the international films with Israeli distributors (festival section in parenthesis): The Traitor (Masters), Varda by Agnes (Masters), The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily (The Family Show), The Lighthouse (Golden Anchor), Fahim (Panorama), The Collini Case (Between Jewish and Israeli Identity). Guest of Honor (Masters), Honey Boy (Panorama)-written by Shia LaBoeuf, directed by Israeli-born Alma Har’el.

Among the classic films to be screened alongside the new documentaries about them: The Passion of Anna Magnani + Rome, Open City + Bellissima Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles + Land Without Bread Forman vs. Forman + Hair (40 years since production) You Don’t Nomi + Showgirls


Claude Lelouch – Will receive Lifetime Achievement Award at HaifaFF gala opening. The Festival will screen THE BEST YEARS OF A LIFE (“Masters” section) and A MAN AND A WOMAN (1966/in “Haifa Classics” section)

Agnieszka Holland – Will present MR. JONES to audience in its Israel premiere and give masterclass to film and television industry. MR. JONES will be shown in Haifa “Masters” film section.

Hans Petter Moland – tribute of two of his films: OUT STEALING HORSES (Carmel Competition) and IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE (“Masters” section).

Avi Nesher – Haifa will screen the new restoration of his 1998 film TAXMAN, will be screened in our “Masters” section.

Stephan Elliott – THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT (1994), shown in “Haifa Classics” section.

Guy Nattiv – SKIN (feature film, in “Gala” section) + Carmel Intl Film jury. He won Academy Award for best short live action feature for SKIN (the short film).

Highlights from Between Jewish and Israeli Identity competition (Jewish/Israeli themed films):

INTERESTING GUEST for CHICHINETTE: HOW I ACCIDENTALLY BECAME A SPY. The film will be World Premiere in Haifa. Marthe Cohn, the subject of the film, just months short of turning 100, is making her way from Los Angeles to Haifa to present the documentary along with her husband Major Cohn (also in the film), director Nicola Hens and producer Amos Geva.

AN IRREPRESSIBLE WOMAN, French film about French Prime Minister Leon Blum. Director Laurent Heynemann and producer Nelly Kafsky will present the film.

AMONG THE RESTORIATIONS: Taxman, Showgirls, Bellissima, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; Moulin Rouge; Rome, Open City; Miracle in Milan; The Night Porter; A Man and a Woman.

INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY PROGRAM: Curated by David D’Arcy: The festival’s International Documentary section will include Filmfarsi, Ehsan Khoshbakht’s kaleidoscopic essay on Iranian popular cinema before 1979. Also on that bill is Driven to Abstraction, by Daria Price, a study of the Knoedler scandal, in which a venerable New York art gallery closed after it was found to have sold forgeries of abstract expressionist works painted by a Chinese artist. The section also includes the Israeli premiere of Gerald Fox’s Leaving Home Coming Home: A Portrait of Robert Frank, the documentary that Frank, who died in September 2019, had stopped after its initial screenings in 2015, and later allowed to be screened.

DOCULINARY: exploring the intersection between food, immigration, culture: In the Bottle (France), A Taste of Sky (US/Bolivia/Denmark), Breaking Bread (US/Israel: director Beth Elise Hawk will present the film), The Wandering Chef (South Korea).


HaifaFF’s VR section is expanding, new collaborations and guests. VR/AR programs curated by Tal Michael Haring:

*An International Virtual Reality \ Augmented Reality Exhibition which includes 45 VR-AR narrative films & new-media installations by Israeli & international artists, as previously presented in important film festivals such as Venice, Cannes, Sundance, Tribeca, SXSW, Sheffield – all in a futuristic, post-humanistic, three-dimensional atmosphere, filled with technological advancements & unique immersive stories.

15-16-17 of October, 19:30 - 23:30 each evening, at the Portown compound, Hanamal 32 Street, Downtown Haifa.

At the exhibition we will showcase a wide variety of award-winning & critically acclaimed VR films, such as:

* The Key - winner of prestigious awards at Tribeca & Venice Film Festvials 2019: * Daughters of Chibok - winner of "Best VR Story" award at Venice 2019: * Gloomy Eyes - winner of NewImages Festival 2019: * Common Ground - nominated at the VR Awards event 2019: * Aftermath VR: Euromaidan - screened at Sheffield 2019: * Bonfire - new film from Baobab Studios (former Pixar artists): * The Real Thing - screened in over 40 film festivals around the world:

The exhibition will also present groundbreaking technological developments, in the fields of Virtual Reality \ Augmented Reality, 3D Scanning, Volumetric Video and Photorealistic Animations – by Intel U.S and by the Israeli startups Tetavi & Scan the City. Representatives from the companies will be present at exhibition.

*As part of 2019's New Media Industry Days, HIFF is proud to host a special Canadian & Israeli delegation of 12 new-media filmmakers, as part of the co-production project "New Identities" - initiated by Makor Foundation for Israeli Films & Gesher Multicultural Film Fund (the Israeli side), and the National Film Board & Canada Media Fund (the Canadian side).

During these days, 5 international guests, in the fields of VR-AR, will speak about these new storytelling mediums, at an open for wide public event - 17.10, 13:00 - 16:00, Beit Hecht (next to Haifa Cinematheque).

On the 18.10 & 19.10 - the Canadian & Israeli delegation will receive special workshops & mentorship from our international guests and will present their ideas for new VR-AR films.

Amongst our guests are: * Joel Benson (Nigeria) - Director of Daughthers of Chibok * Sascha Hartmann (France) - Digital ARTE France * Louis-Richard Tremblay (Canada) - Head of Interactive Media, National Film Board * Adam Rogers - Intel USA More details about the whole project: socially thematic VR films raising questions about identities, nationality, immigration, gender, etc.


bottom of page