'Bethlehem’ Named Best Film at Haifa Film Festival

The film follows the complex relationship between a Shin Bet security service officer and a Palestinian youth who serves as an informant.

Yuval Adler’s debut film “Bethlehem” won the prize for best Israeli feature film in the international Haifa Film Festival on Thursday. The film’s lead actor Tsahi Halevi took the award for best actor.

The espionage drama, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival this year, also has the highest number of nominations for the Ophir Awards due to be handed out in Haifa on Saturday.

The film’s screenplay, written by Adler and Ali Waked, follows the complex relationship between a Shin Bet security service officer (Halevi) and a Palestinian youth who serves as his informer. The youth is the younger brother of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade commander in Bethlehem.

“The movie gripped us from the first scene … and is still with us hours and days after viewing it,” the judges wrote in their argument for awarding the prize.

“The movie sets before the viewer dilemmas of split loyalty. This may be a debut film, but the director demonstrates complete control of the cinematic medium and has created an unforgettable film. Apart from being a wonderful movie, it is also very relevant to our life here in these hard times.”

Two prizes for
‘Ana Arabia’

Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai’s latest feature “Ana Arabia” also won two prizes at the festival. The Jaffa-set drama, which contended in the official competition at the Venice festival, won for best screenplay, by Gitai and Marie-Jose Senselme. It was also awarded for best cinematography, by Giora Bejach and Nir Bar, who filmed the entire 81 minutes in one long shot.

The best debut award went to Yossi Aviram’s “The Dune,” and the best actress award was given to Hila Vidor for her performance in Adam Sanderson’s “Funeral At Noon.” Joseph Pitchhadze’s “Sweets” won the critics association award for special artistic achievement.

The big prize among Israeli documentary films went to “Farewell Herr Schwarz,” directed by Yael Reuveny. The film is about a Jewish family that splits in two following World War II; the movie covers more than 50 years. Itamar Chen’s documentary “Night Shift” received a citation.

The feature film judges this year included actress Gila Almagor (chairman), Vivian Ostrovsky, Aziza Tan, Jorge Gurvich and Haim Makelberg. The documentary contest judges were Heinz Migholtz, Tamar Yarom and Netali Baron.

Italian director Roberto Ando’s “Viva la Liberta” won the Golden Anchor award for films made in Mediterranean countries. The Dutch thriller “Borgman” directed by Alex van Warmerdam won the award for Directors of Tomorrow.

This year’s event features 280 films from around the world, including 70 locally made movies. The festival opened with Israeli director Ari Folman’s newest picture, “The Congress,” his highly anticipated follow-up to “Waltz with Bashir.” The new film blends live-action and animation and stars Robin Wright.

The festival will end Saturday night with a screening of the 3-D film “Gravity,” co-written and co-directed by Alfonso Cuaron and starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as surviving astronauts in a damaged space shuttle.

Rami Chelouche
Vered Adir