The Other City, Center: Libby Kessel Photo: Libby Kessel

“I photograph us until we become well-known and famous artists,” answers Libby Kessel, the creator of the film “The Other City,” which runs at the Dokaviv festival and is now being screened around the city, when asked by Talia Sivan, one of the film’s characters So long.

For 12 years, Kessel documented her friends, a group of artists located in the same building in the lower part of Haifa, and with compassionate eyes, a human look and a sensitive hand on the camera button provides a personal and rare glimpse into a life Haifa did not know existed – avant-garde art life Many years that infects everything. “It’s a teenage movie for all of us, a story about dreams but not just about breaking them,” she says.

The Other City  Photo: Libby Kessel

The Other City Photo: Libby Kessel

Between the artist and himself

Kessel herself was born in Kiryat Tivon, in 2007 she came to Haifa to study photography at WIZO and thus found herself renting an apartment in a semi-empty building at 51 Hanemal Street. “Even drug addicts were not here.” And in the absence of a living environment, loneliness floated. “He was very lonely,” she says. “I was looking for a place with people. On one of my shifts as a waitress at Port 24 a guy came in with a long black skirt, ordering full of food, drinks. I asked the shift manager about him and he replies that it’s an artist, that I must know him. I was immediately turned on. “

The ignition became a neighborhood and a place of refuge for Kessel. “During the day we became best friends. Doors open, cook, eat. It never happened to me, with anyone. For the first time in my life I feel like a fish in water, feel a sense of belonging. Photography was my way of loving them. “

Shahar Sivan  Photo: Libby Kessel

Shahar Sivan Photo: Libby Kessel

From the stills that were intended to be a kind of family album, a film came out at the end of the film, something that she did not dare to imagine. “When you’re working on something, you’re not busy imagining. You’re busy creating. “The excitement of people from the film is something that surprises me, there is not a day that I do not receive a message from people who tell me that they identify with our struggles.”

Between the artist and his friend

“I want them to love the characters through my eyes, to see them as brave people,” says Kessel. The people she talks about are Shachar Sivan (multidisciplinary artist), Zvi Petrkowski (actor), Talia Sivan (sculptor) and Ido Marcus (multidisciplinary artist) who will later be her husband and the father of her children, and the courage she talks about stems from the decision to make art a way of life.

“Going full time is the easiest, it’s safe. But art, it’s not a safe place. ” And being in an unsafe place – is something that has consequences. As the film deepens, the personal struggles of each of them are revealed. “Even when I started shooting the film, I was not fully aware of the seriousness of these problems. It was funny that Shahar was drinking and it was not terrible that Talia was taking pills. There was also something romantic about it, consistent with the image of the artist who is in conflict with himself. “

The Other City  Photo: Libby Kessel

The Other City Photo: Libby Kessel

The safe place they created themselves, basically their friendship. “Before I was the heart of the photographer, I was the heart of society. In the lowest moments, I put the camera on and was with them. And now, no matter where the film is scattered, we are together forever within this film. I packed us all together. “

Between the artist and the place

“Haifa is the main character in the film, we owe it to her our success,” Kessel explains and divides the answer into two: “The city is a virgin. When you get to the place and you’re the only gallery in town, it’s much easier. In this sense we have blossomed the wilderness. And the second reason is economic – the city’s cheap real estate allowed us to be full-time artists. “

Zvi Petrkowski  Photo: Libby Kessel

Zvi Petrkowski Photo: Libby Kessel

And as much as Haifa gave them, they made sure to give it back to her. In 2009 they opened the wing and with it the window to Haifa bohemian life that included parties, alcohol and culture: “We did not wait for the town to give us. We did everything ourselves. ” When the wing closed in 2015, they opened an unofficial art school on the steps of the Prophets that later moved to Yehiel Street in Talpiot Market where it still exists today and they are the ones who teach there: “We have a diverse and amazing Haifa audience that goes with us for years, who loves to create and absorb art.”

In general, films of this kind we are used to seeing in a city that is an hour south of us, the one to which Haifa is constantly compared. This group, which inspires the new generation of artists in the city, puts Haifa on the cultural map. Haifa offers an alternative. Wherever you go in this city everything is mixed and it is much more right and healthy to live like this. In some ways, this is the most sane place in Israel to live. ”

The Other City  Photo: Libby Kessel

Libby Kessel Photo: Libby Kessel

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