Har'el in January 2013
Tel Aviv, Israel
(m. 20??; div. 2012)
Alma Har'el (Hebrew: עלמה הראל) is an Israeli-American music video and film director, best known for her documentary Bombay Beach, which took the top prize at Tribeca Film Festival in 2011, received a nomination for a 2011 Independent Spirit "Truer than Fiction" Award, and has been taught in several universities, including Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab and Film Center, as a genre redefining work.
Har’el is noted for her ability to artistically blur the lines between documentary and fiction, effectively utilizing choreographed dance sequences and inspired musical choices in a surreal, dream-like poetic meditation on life. Stephan Holden of The New York Times wrote about Har'el's film Bombay Beach: “[it] looks and feels like a fever dream about an alternate universe. Suffused with a sense of wonder, it hovers, dancing inside its own ethereal bubble”.
One of Har’el’s most prominent projects as a VJ was a collaboration with the Balkan Beat Box, including an 11-minute video, The Balkan Beat Box 1st show ever - Digital Diary of Alma Har’el, on their first album, released in 2005. Har’el later stated that she “never studied film, so that (VJing) was my film school” [ ... ] I wanted to feel as though I was playing videos like a musical instrument — editing them live, with people reacting. That still has a big impact on me to this day.”
Working on live video-art performances with different musicians led Har’el to directing music videos, and her frequent collaborations with singer Zach Condon of the band Beirut brought her numerous awards and nominations in film and music video festivals around the world.
Har’el’s work on the Beirut music video for their single "Elephant Gun" (2009), earned her nominations for Best Directorial Debut at the MTV Video Music Awards and the Music Video Production Association Awards, and was number 30 on Paste Magazine's Top 50 Videos of the Decade.
In her 2012 music video for Icelandic band Sigur Rós' song "Fjögur píanó", from the album Valtari, Har’el directed Shia LaBeouf along with dancer Denna Thomsen. The video was part of the Valtari Mystery Film Experiment, in which Sigur Rós asked a dozen filmmakers to each select a song from the album and shoot a video inspired by the music. The Wall Street Journal explained that “All the directors received the same $10,000 budget and zero instructions from the band. With that creative freedom, filmmaker Alma Har’el delivered dead butterflies, light-up lollipops and a naked (in every sense) performance from a star of megabudget Hollywood movies.” Har’el’s video received over 4.7 millions (as of July 2019) views on YouTube and critical acclaim.
LaBeouf, explaining his involvement in the project, stated that he wrote Har'el a fan letter after being deeply touched by Bombay Beach, to which Har'el responded that she would like to work with him. The two would collaborate again, with LaBeouf producing her 2016 documentary LoveTrue, and Har'el directing LaBeouf's 2019 autobiographical drama film Honey Boy.
In July 2011, Har’el was chosen as one of Filmmaker Magazine's 25 New Faces of Cinema, which also noted in October 2011 that her film Bombay Beach was “Stunningly shot and formally audacious, … (from) a major new directorial talent in Har’el who is working in a key all her own.”
Bombay Beach is a 2011 feature film about the rusting relic of a failed 1950s development boom. The Salton Sea, a prominent character in the film, is a barren Californian landscape often seen as a symbol of the failure of the American Dream. The film's atypical filmmaking style tells the story of three protagonists: Benny Parrish, a young boy diagnosed with bipolar disorder; CeeJay Thompson, a black teenager and aspiring football player who has taken refuge in Bombay Beach hoping to avoid the same fate of his cousin who was murdered by a gang of youths in Los Angeles; and Red, an octogenarian former oil field worker. Together they make up a triptych of American manhood in the Salton Sea's land of thwarted opportunity.
Har’el was joined by Zach Condon of the band Beirut, whom she worked with on music videos earlier in her career, to prepare the music for the film.
LoveTrue is a 2016 genre-bending documentary that brings Har’el’s signature poetic imagery and fascination with performance in nonfiction to three complimentary stories that seek to demystify the fantasy of true love.
Using an atmospheric blend of follow-along footage, artful camerawork, and scenes depicting the past, present, and future of her subjects, Har'el follows three complicated, real-life relationships as they unfold in distinct corners of the country. Alaskans Blake and Joel pursue a promising romance, in spite of physical limitations and her stripping career. In Hawaii, free spirit Coconut Willie discovers another side of true love after realizing his son is not biologically his own. And singer/songwriter Victory philosophizes on faith and faithfulness as she and her siblings perform in the streets of New York City accompanied by their father John, who was abruptly separated from his wife. Set to a hypnotizing score by Flying Lotus and executive produced by Shia LaBeouf, three revelatory stories emerge about a deeper definition of love.
LoveTrue won best documentary feature at the 2016 Crested Butte Film Festival and the Grand Prix Best Documentary Award at the 2016 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, and is currently showing in film festivals around the world.
Har'el has shot and directed commercials for some of the most prolific, cutting edge tech companies, including Airbnb's first ever campaign, for which she won the 2014 Clio Award for Best Cinematography and the 2015 Wood Pencil Award for Best Cinematography.
Har'el also directed the first ever ad campaign for Internet.org, Mark Zuckerberg's initiative to bring Internet access to technologically challenged areas of the world. (Spots were shot in India, Indonesia and Bolivia, among other countries around the world.)
In 2013 she joined commercial ad agency Epoch Films.
Free The Bid
In 2016, Har'el founded Free The Bid, an initiative designed to fight gender bias in the advertisement industry. It calls for ad agencies to include at least one female director every time they triple-bid a commercial production. The program also urges production companies to add more women to their rosters. If ad agencies can't find a woman candidate fit for the job, they must then pledge to free this bid by seeking other forms of diversity for the project. The initiative has garnered support by leading ad agencies around the world such as FCB, DDB, BBDO, McCann, JWT and Leo Burnett to hot shops like Pereira & O'Dell, Mother, 72&Sunny, Martin and 180, and in November 2016, Har'el received the "Female 3 Cheers Award" at the third annual 3% Movement Conference, a similar themed organization trying to expand the number of creative directors beyond 3%, for Free The Bid's impact on gender equality in advertising.
- Muki (Hebrew: מוקי) - "Won't Stop Dreaming" (2006)
- Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders - "Louise" (2007)
- Beirut - "Elephant Gun" (2007)
- Beirut - "Postcards from Italy" (2008)
- Bajofondo - "Pa' Bailar" (2008)
- Nikka Costa - "Stuck to You" (2008)
- The Rolling Stones (Soulwax remix) - "You Can't Always Get What You Want" (2009)
- Jack Peñate - "Tonight's Today" (2009)
- Beirut - "Concubine" (2009)
- Fanfarlo - "Harold T. Wilkins" (2009)
- We Are The World - "Clay Stones" (2009)
- Shearwater - "Hidden Lakes" (2010)
- Sigur Rós - "Fjögur píanó" (2012)
- Airbnb - "Birdhouses" (2013)
- Airbnb - "Views" (2013)
- Internet.org (2015)
- Stella Artois - "Isabella" (2016)
Awards and accolades
- Best Debut Director (Nominated)- MTV Video Music Awards- Beirut "Elephant Gun" (2007)
- Best Indy Rock Video (Nominated)- UK Music Video Awards- Jack Penate "Tonight's Today" (2009)
- Best Music Video (Nominated)- Camerimage Film Festival- Jack Penate "Tonight's Today" (2009)
- Winner, Best World Documentary- Tribeca International Film Festival- Bombay Beach (2011)
- Nominated - Independent Spirit "Truer than Fiction" award – Bombay Beach (2011)
- Winner, Best Documentary - Guanajuato International Film Festival- Bombay Beach (2011)
- Winner - Best Editing - Woodstock Film Festival – Bombay Beach (2011)
- Honorable Mention, Special Jury Award- Sheffield Doc Fest- Bombay Beach (2011)
- Winner - Emerging Cinematic Vision - Camden International Film Festival – Bombay Beach (2011)
- Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Cinema (2011)
- Nominated - Cinema Eye Honors "Best Film Debut" and "Best Cinematography"– Bombay Beach (2012)
- “The 20 Best Uses of Bob Dylan Songs In Film” by Paste Magazine." (2012)
- Winner, Best Cinematography - Clio Awards - Airbnb "Views" (2014)
- Winner, Best Cinematography - Wood Pencil - Airbnb "Views" (2015)
- Winner, Best Documentary Feature - Crested Butte Film Festival - "LoveTrue" (2016)
- Winner, Best Documentary - Karlovy Vary International Festival - "LoveTrue" (2016)
- Top 12 Female Filmmakers Ready to Direct a Blockbuster - Indiewire (2016)
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- Jurgensen, John (2012-06-18). "Exclusive: Sigur Ros Video 'Fjogur Piano' Featuring Shia LaBeouf". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2019-07-14.
- Alma Har’el, Shia LaBeouf, Denna Thomsen (2012-06-18). Sigur Rós - Fjögur píanó [Official Music Video] (YouTube). Retrieved 2019-07-14.
- Macaulay, Scott (2012-06-26). "Alma Har'El on her Shia LaBeouf-Starring Sigur Ros Video". Filmmaker. Archived from the original on 2013-02-12. Retrieved 2019-07-14.
- Hoen, Tory (2012-08-14). "Shia LaBeouf Explains Why He Got Nude for That Sigur Rós Video". Vulture. New York. Retrieved 2019-07-14.
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- Huffington, Arianna; Mooser, Bryn (2016-04-20). "HuffPost RYOT: Lights, Camera, Impact". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-07-25.
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- Myers, Kimber (2016-04-17). "Tribeca Review: Alma Har'el's Dreamlike And Poetic Documentary 'LoveTrue'". IndieWire. Retrieved 2016-07-25.
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- Diaz, Ann-Christine (2016-09-15). "'Free the Bid' Initiative Calls for Ad Industry to Support Female Directors". Ad Age. Retrieved 2016-12-19.
- Staff writers. "3% Movement Mission Statement". 3% Movement. Retrieved 2019-07-14.
- Gardezi, Aleena (2016-11-04). "Free the Bid Gives Female Directors a Fair Opportunity". DIVERGE. Retrieved 2016-12-19.
- Blanton, Kristen (2012-02-27). "The 20 Best Uses of Bob Dylan Songs In Film". Paste. Retrieved 2019-07-14.