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The Haifa International Film Festival

films in Israel

The Haifa International Film Festival is an internationally known event that is held annually. Each year, contestants from all over the world present their films. The event is hosted by the city of Haifa, and screenings are distributed throughout different civic centers in the city. Nearly two hundred films are presented. Many of them are by Israeli film makers.


The festival has originally started in 1983, and was the first film festival in Israel; It is is held prior to the Jewish festival of Sukkot. It is also considered Haifa's primary social and cultural event, and draws visitors from throughout the world.

The event is held at the Haifa auditorium, which is located in the Carmel Center of Haifa. The Center is both a residential and upscale business area that has many of the cities' top grade hotels including the world famous Dan Panorama Hotel. One of the area's main parks is Gan Ha'em in Haifa, which is a zoo, a city park, and a well known place for socializing. The park has a big stage upon which musical concerts are performed. There are also lectures and activities associated with various holidays, political activists also use the park for their forums. The Bahai Gardens are just a walking distance from the center and there is a wonderful view of the sea from the area. I live in the "Mercaz" five minutes by foot from the Auditorium, two minutes from the Gardens and across the street from my beloved zoo. Transportation is excellent in Israel, therefore I as well as many Israelis do not own cars.

The Haifa International Film Festival attracts a wide audience of film-goers and media professionals from Israel and abroad. Throughout the week special screenings are held of 150 new films. Apart from movies screened around the clock at seven theaters, the festival features open-air screenings. Film categories include feature films, documentaries, animation, short films, retrospectives and tributes.

The Board of Directors is composed of film and culture professionals and public figures. The festival is underwritten by the City of Haifa, the Ministry of Education, the Israeli Film Council, and the European Union, as well as commercial companies.
It is not really an old tradition – the first stars with the names of outstanding Israeli actors were embed into the pavement in front of the Haifa Cinemateque in 2004, the twentieth anniversary of the Haifa Film Festival. Whether the obvious analogy of the ceremony with the Hollywood Walk of Fame is cute or embarrassing is for you to decide, yet it has taken place each year since, and became somewhat of a link between the international Film Festival and the city which hosts it.

Haifa Cinémathèque - Cinema in Haifa is not just a major entertainment of the city, but it is sincerely practiced as a form of art. Hence, apart from the commercial flicks that are popular everywhere, the people of Haifa actually appreciate well made movies or even art films. A major platform for showcasing this kind of cinema is the Haifa Cinémathèque of Haifa. This one of a kind establishment is a major center of art and culture in the city and is surely a must visit.

Located in the James de Rothschild Cultural and Community Center, the Haifa Cinémathèque of Haifa, has been providing the Haifa audience as well as the tourists with opportunities to view some great movies since 1975. Adding to this is the absolutely laid back ambiance of the movie hall, which creates just the atmosphere for some good viewing. Another wonderful thing about the Haifa Cinémathèque is the variety of movies it screens. In just a day you can see about three movies, all from different parts of the world. It is thus the ideal place for viewing the best of international film making also. You would not also have to worry if the movie is in some other language because most of them come with English subtitles. Moreover, the Haifa Cinémathèque showcases several classics and even remakes of classics. Making an interesting compilation with it are also the various modern works.

This year I saw several films but the one that stood out was Student a remake of Crime and Punishment. Based on the classic novel Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Student unfolds in modern Kazakhstan. The film's protagonist is The Student whose major at the university is philosophy. He rents a basement room from an old woman living in the suburbs and suffers from loneliness and a permanent lack of funds. The atmosphere of poverty and the teaching of social Darwinism begin to affect him. He decides to commit an act of random murder, to kill the owner of a shop, and has to learn the influence of conscience. When he falls in love with a girl he has to take responsibility for his actions. I remembered the foolish things that I did as a youth to prove my courage and during. The actors in this film were amateurs which was an interesting twist.

The film's director Darezhan Omirbaev was born in Dzhambul, Kazakhstan in 1958. In 1980 Omirbaev graduated from Kazakh State University with a degree in Math and in 1987 from VGIK in Moscow with a degree in Film History. He's worked as an editor at New Film magazine, and currently lectures at the Kazakh Academy of Arts. Omirbaev's new feature, Student, was presented in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2012 Cannes Festival and marks the third participation for the Kazakh master. In 1998, his film Killer won the Prix of the Un Certain Regard and in 2001 he again participated in this section with his The Road.

I attended the film with a wonderful friend named Eugena, She was born in Moscow but lived in Kazakhstan for several years as a youth. Eugena and her family immigrated to Israel in 1970. She still has relatives in Kazakhstan. She and I went to coffee after the film and discovered that two of the servers are immigrants from the same country. The international flavor of live in Israel is still exciting to me. We heard fellow patrons speaking several languages which is a common occurrence in Israel. Some may have been visitors to the festival but I am sure that many are local residents.

One of my fellow diners asked us in perfect English if the cafe had wireless connections. Eugena and I were speaking Hebrew but my American accent is hard to miss. The young man proceeded to inform us that he was a visitor to the festival from Moscow, and whose profession is producing Jewish film festivals in Russia!

Posted by eshugerman 04:53 Tagged travel festival israel film haifa

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