Stillwater, starring Matt Damon, to open Haifa Film Festival

The new Matt Damon film, Stillwater, will be the opening night movie at the 37th Haifa International Film Festival on September 19.

The festival will run until September 28 at the Haifa Cinematheque and other auditoriums around the city.

Stillwater, which was directed by Tom McCarthy, who made the Oscar-winning Spotlight, is a drama loosely based on the Amanda Knox case, where an American young woman was convicted of murder in Europe and maintained her innocence. In Stillwater, Damon plays a working-class American father whose daughter (Abigail Breslin, of Little Miss Sunshine, now all grown up) is imprisoned in Marseilles and is accused of murdering her lover. Damon goes to France to try to help his daughter and meets an actress (Camille Cottin of Call My Agent) who becomes his guide to the unfamiliar country.

Other events at the festival that were announced Sunday include a screening of Avi Nesher’s new film, Image of Victory, a look at young people on both sides in the War of Independence, which will feature a talk with the director, hosted by film critic, Dr. Shmulik Duvdevani of Tel Aviv University.

Hagai Levi, the Israeli writer/producer working in Hollywood, will speak at a screening of his latest television series, a reworking of Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage for HBO starring Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac, which he made at the request of the Bergman family. Levi made such acclaimed Israeli series as BeTipul and Our Boys, and also made The Affair in the US.

There will be a tribute concert to Habib Shadah, who composed music for a number of much loved Israeli films, among them The Band’s Visit, Lemon Tree, and Holy Air, featuring singer Rana Khoury, whose brother, Amir Khoury, stars in Image of Victory.

Tel Aviv on Fire, winning film of 34th Haifa International Film Festival. The actor on the right is Kais Nashif. (credit: PATRICIA IBANEZ)

The Israeli premiere of Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street by Marilyn Agrelo, an insider’s look at the iconic show and how it changed attitudes to children’s education all over the world, will be shown at the festival. As part of the screening event, there will be a panel on Zoom with the creators of the series and the film.

Former longtime director of the Haifa International Film Festival, Pnina Bleyer, will program a new section of films from a personal perspective. The festival will also include competitions for Israeli feature films and documentaries, as well as the Golden Anchor Competition for movies from countries along the Mediterranean and the Carmel Competition for international movies.

The festival will include the latest films by Pedro Almodovar, Nanni Moretti, Paul Schrader, Yimou Zhang, and many others. Shirley, Josephine Decker’s biopic about horror writer Shirley Jackson, starring Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men, The Handmaid’s Tale), will be shown, as will Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta, a film about a 17th-century nun who falls in love with another woman.

The full program can be found here.