Alma Har'el

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Alma Har'el
Alma CU Portrait.jpg
BornTel Aviv, Israel
OccupationFilm and music video director
Notable workBombay Beach, Fjögur píanó
Spouse(s)Boaz Yakin
(m. 20??; div. 2012)

Alma Har'el 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,[1] received a nomination for a 2011 Independent Spirit "Truer than Fiction" award,[2] 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”.[3]

In 2016 she premiered her newest film "LoveTrue" at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film went on to win the Grand Prix Best Documentary Award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.[4]

Har'el was named one of the "Top 12 female filmmakers ready to direct a blockbuster" by Indiewire in 2016.[5]

Flavorwire has called Har'el an "honest to goodness visionary,"[6] While No Film School adds, ""Every once in a while, an artist comes along who changes the way we think about film. Alma Har'el is one of those."[7]

Early life[edit]

Born and raised in Israel to a Jewish family,[8] Alma Har’el began her work as a photographer and a performer of live video mixing in music concerts.

One of Har’el’s most prominent projects as a VJ was a collaboration with the Balkan Beat Box, “a performance-meets-dance party that blends electronic music with hard-edged folk music from North Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans and Eastern Europe.”[9]

Their first album included an 11-minute video titled: The Balkan Beat Box 1st show ever - Digital Diary of Alma Har’el. The video was edited by Har’el and features Har’el performing on stage and mixing live video art alongside the band. In an interview for Oyster Magazine she recalls: “I 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.”[10]


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 acclaimed Beirut music video Elephant Gun, an eclectic marriage of whimsical, drunk modern dance and youthful celebration, earned her a VMA nomination for Best Directorial Debut, Best Directorial Debut at the MVPA awards and a mention on Paste Magazine's Top 50 Videos of the Decade.[11]

Steve Labate of Paste Magazine wrote, “Martin Scorsese has spoken of his affection for the ballet of the camera, and director Alma Har’el seems to get this concept intuitively.”[11]

On working with Zach Condon of Beirut, Har’el writes: “That sound is how I feel when I’m honest about my life, that juxtaposition of melancholy and loneliness with the absolute enjoyment and happiness of being alive." [12]

In her most recent music video for Sigur Rós'Fjögur píanó in 2012, Har’el directed Shia LaBeouf along with dancer Denna Thomsen. The video was part of the Valtari Mystery Film Experiment, in which the acclaimed Icelandic band Sigur Rós asked a dozen filmmakers to each select a song from their new album and shoot a video inspired by the music. The Wall Street Journal writes: “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.”[13]

Har’el’s video for Fjögur píanó was an overnight sensation, gaining millions of views on YouTube and applauded as a unique artistic achievement in the media around the world. Filmmaker Magazine called it “provocative and dramatically compelling."[14] In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Har’el said, “For me, it’s about not knowing how to get out of something without causing pain to somebody else, for other people it might be about candy and fish. I’m down with that.”[13]

In an interview for Vulture Magazine, Shia LaBeouf explained his involvement in the project and how he met Har’el: "I wrote a fan letter, I saw Bombay Beach, the movie that Alma Har'el made. It touched me. I told her so. She told me she’d like to work with me. I said, 'What are you doing?' She said, 'I got this Sigur Rós thing.' I said, 'Cool. Can I get involved?' And at the time, it was a different idea. So we worked on the idea for a week."[15]

Har’el said in an interview about the video with Filmmaker Magazine: “I suffer a lot when I have no freedom to do what I want because it always turns less than what it can be. But making films is expansive and you have to choose your battles. In this one, we were all on the same side.”[14]

In 2011, Har’el was chosen as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Cinema.[16] Filmmaker Magazine writes: “Stunningly shot and formally audacious, Bombay Beach, the first feature of director and cinematographer Alma Har’el is a rare bird, the type of film that seems to be building its own cinematic language from the ground up. While it wears the influence of Harmony Korine, Larry Clark, Lynne Ramsay, David Gordon Green, Charles Burnett and Gus Van Sant (just to name a few), it announces a major new directorial talent in Har’el who is working in a key all her own.”[17]

In 2014, Har'el also joined the team at as the company's Global Creative Director. She made her exit when the company was bought out by Huffington Post in 2016.[18]

Bombay Beach[edit]

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 uses an adamantly atypical and artistically innovative filmmaking to tell the story of three protagonists: Benny Parrish, a young boy diagnosed with bipolar disorder whose troubled soul and vivid imagination create both suffering and joy for him and his complex and loving family. 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 that of Red, an ancient survivor, once an oil field worker, living on the fumes of whiskey, cigarettes and an irrepressible love of life. Together they make up a triptych of American manhood in its decisive moments, populating the Salton Sea's land of thwarted opportunity.

Bombay Beach is a dreamlike poem that sets these personal stories to a stylized melding of observational documentary and choreographed dance, to music specially composed for the film by Zach Condon of the band Beirut, and songs by Bob Dylan. “The result is a moving and madly inventive documentary experience—an evocative, symbolic portrait of rural America and its inhabitants.”[19]

In an interview for The Wall Street Journal, Zach Condon spoke about the process of composing music for the film: “Mr. Condon, whose songs conjure echoes of Jacques Brel and Balkan wedding orchestras, had begun to avoid requests for film music. "I gave up", he said. "I'd send an MP3 of something, and they'd send it back with someone else's song, saying, 'Make it sound like this'. Over and over." Ms. Har'el only asked for whatever music he had handy, often stripped of vocal tracks. But as she began assembling scenes, Mr. Condon started to compose, watching the footage on Ms. Har'el's laptop in his family's house in Santa Fe. "I loved the day-dreamy quality," he said of the film. "The wandering eye through that landscape".”[20]

Terry Gilliam described the film as “a beautiful, quirky, and ultimately very moving film about the American Dream as it teeters on the edge of a desert sea.”


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.

The film had its world premiere at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, where its multiple sold-out screenings received rave reviews across the board. Indiewire writes, "If particular films each have an equivalent genre in literature, Alma Har’el’s documentary “LoveTrue” comes closest to poetry."[21] The Hollywood Reporter adds, "This powerful, idiosyncratic film leaves us pondering some of the complexities that many romantic storytellers blithely ignore."[22]

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,[4] 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, 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.)

She was also the first female filmmaker to direct a commercial for Stella Artois with 2016's ad "Isabella", which was shot by renowned cinematographer Benoît Debie.

In 2013 she joined commercial ad agency Epoch Films.

Free The Bid[edit]

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,[23] and in November 2016, Har'el received the "3 Cheers Award" from the 3% Conference for Free The Bid's impact on gender equality in advertising.[24]

Music videos[edit]

Commercials (List)[edit]

Awards and accolades[edit]

  • 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)[5]
  • Winner, Best Cinematography - Wood Pencil - Airbnb "Views" (2015)
  • Winner, Best Cinematography - Clio Awards - Airbnb "Views" (2014)
  • 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)
  • Nominated - Cinema Eye Honors "Best Film Debut" and "Best Cinematography"– Bombay Beach (2012)
  • 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)
  • Best Debut Director (Nominated)- MTV Video Music Awards- Beirut "Elephant Gun" (2007)
  • Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Cinema (2011)
  • “The 20 Best Uses of Bob Dylan Songs In Film” by Paste Magazine." (2012)[25]


  1. ^ Archived November 14, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Archived January 28, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Archived January 15, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Tizard, Will (2016-07-09). "Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2016: Full List of Winners". Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  5. ^ a b Erbland, Kate; Erbland, Kate (2016-05-27). "12 More Female Filmmakers Who Are Ready To Direct A Blockbuster". IndieWire. Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  6. ^ ""It's Why People Don't Pick Their Nose on CNN": Words of Wisdom From Shia LaBeouf, Producer". 2015-04-17. Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  7. ^ "Why You Need To Know about Alma Har'el and Her Cosmic Doc 'Lovetrue'". Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  8. ^ Anthem Magazine 2001
  9. ^ essayrecordings
  10. ^ Oyster #99: Film Director Alma Har'el | Fashion Magazine | News. Fashion. Beauty. Music. |
  11. ^ a b The 50 Best Music Videos of the Decade (2000-2009) :: Music :: Lists :: Paste
  12. ^ A Conversation With Alma Har’el (BOMBAY BEACH) – Hammer to Nail
  13. ^ a b Exclusive: Sigur Ros Video ‘Fjogur Piano’ Featuring Shia LaBeouf - Speakeasy - WSJ
  14. ^ a b Archived from the original on February 12, 2013. Retrieved January 13, 2013. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ Shia LaBeouf Explains That Nude Sigur Rós Video - Vulture
  16. ^ Archived February 18, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ Archived from the original on February 13, 2013. Retrieved January 13, 2013. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ RYOT, Arianna Huffington Bryn Mooser Co-founder of; humanitarian; filmmaker (2016-04-20). "HuffPost RYOT: Lights, Camera, Impact". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  19. ^ "New release - Bombay Beach | Dogwoof Shop Documentary DVD". Archived from the original on 2013-02-15. Retrieved 2013-01-13.
  20. ^
  21. ^ Myers, Kimber (2016-04-17). "Tribeca Review: Alma Har'el's Dreamlike And Poetic Documentary 'LoveTrue'". Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  22. ^ "'LoveTrue': Tribeca Review". Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  23. ^ "'Free the Bid' Initiative Calls for Ad Industry to Support Female Directors". Retrieved 2016-12-19.
  24. ^ "Free the Bid Gives Female Directors a Fair Opportunity". Diverge. 2016-11-04. Retrieved 2016-12-19.
  25. ^ The 20 Best Uses of Bob Dylan Songs In Film :: Movies :: Lists :: Paste

External links[edit]