The Debt director John Madden [pictured] will be the guest of honour.

To celebrate the new UK-Israel co-production agreement, a re-enforced British delegation is on its way to to the Haifa. Gareth Urwin (The King’s Speech) will be heading the jury for the Israeli feature films competition. Among the other guests invited to participate in various panels through the festival are David Thompson (Origins Pictures), Joe Oppenheimer (BBC Films), Robert Buckler (Renegade Films), The Debt producer Kris Thykier, BFI’s Isabel Davis, Peter Czernin (Blueprint Pictures), and Michael Kuhn (Qwery Films).

British filmmaker John Madden, whose recent The Debt is based on an original Israeli script (HaKhov) by Assaf Bernstein and Ido Rosenblum, will be the guest of honour at this year’s Haifa Film Festival, which will take place, as usual, during the week-long Feast of Tabernacles (Oct 13-22). The Debt, as yet unreleased in Israel, starring Helen Mirren and Sam Worthington, is one of the festival’s main gala attractions.

Some of the other galas in the programme, which opens with George Clooney’s Ides of March and wraps with Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, include Julie Gavras’ Late Bloomers, Cannes-awarded Drive by Nicolas Winding Refn, and John Michael McDonagh’s The Guard.

Founded in 1983, the festival is now running several competitive programmes, among them an international prize, The Golden Anchor, dedicated to Mediterranean cinema and several others focusing on domestic productions (features, documentaries, animation, student films and shorts). Already a hub for industry meetings and panels in the past, Haifa’s activities will intensify this year with an International Marketing Forum and several international pitching sessions. Among the films competing for the Golden Anchor, such well-known festival favorites as Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia and Aki Kaurismaki’s Le Havre, while the Israeli feature program offers Eran Kolirin’s The Exchange, Shlomi Elkabetz’s semi-documentary Testimony, Michal Aviad’s Invisible, Tawfik Abou Wael’s Last Days in Jerusalem, and Assi Dayan’s long-time-in-the-making Dr. Pomerantz, to be screened out of competition.

More industry guests expected to attend include Gaby Roethemeyer of the MFG Baden-Wurtenberg Fund, accompanied by an equally numerous German delegation, Jacqueline Ada of the French CNC, producer Yael Fogiel of Les Films du Poisson, who has been involved in a number of Israeli productions and Kristina Trapp of EAVE Luxemburg.