Alma Har'el founded Free The Bid, an initiative designed to fight gender bias in the advertisement industry. Alma Har'el founded Free The Bid, an initiative designed to fight gender bias in the advertisement industry. Alma Har'el founded Free The Bid, an initiative designed to fight gender bias in the advertisement industry. (Photo: Roy Rochlin / Getty Images)

Israeli film director is making her name known in Hollywood, and beyond

She made headlines at the Tribeca Film Festival, nearly won an Oscar and is now at work on a film for Time magazine celebrating the lives of the world's most notable women.

If the name Alma Har'el doesn't mean much to you now, mark our words: it will soon. Just hearing about the Tel Aviv-born film director for the first time? No worries. Here's what you need to know...

Time magazine's '100 Women of the Year'

In honor of International Women’s Day, and for the first time ever, Time magazine unveiled a list of “100 Women of the Year," a special package that highlights one woman from each of the past 100 years. This list includes notables like Frida Kahlo, Jackie Kennedy and Oprah Winfrey. Har'el was hired by the magazine to make a documentary about the project. "I joined forces with Time to help the publication use its influential global platform to celebrate International Women’s Day by immortalizing a century of visionary, brave women who each might have been a Woman of the Year, were the scales not tipped against them," Har'el said. "In order to do this list justice, we convened a committee of gifted female thinkers from various disciplines and backgrounds. I’m thankful for their conversation, which was illuminating, inspiring and proof that while the contributions of many women throughout history may have been erased, it’s up to us to make sure they won’t be forgotten."

Har'el launched her career with music videos

What began as a love of photography eventually morphed into producing videos that would appear at concerts. She began more than a decade ago with Israeli musical group Balkan Beat Box and then launched a collaboration with New Mexico native Zach Condon that lasts until this day. This creative work led to her directing more than a dozen music videos. Her 2007 video for the song "Elephant Gun" (which you can watch above) was nominated for Best Directorial Debut at the MTV Video Music Awards. Music magazine Paste called it one of the best music videos of the decade.

'Bombay Beach' put her on the map

Her debut film, a 2011 documentary called "Bombay Beach," earned her the top prize at the Tribeca Film Festival. The movie, which features music from Bob Dylan, is a dreamlike elegy that weaves together the stories of three American men at decisive moments in their lives. "This film can only serve to show glimpses into some of the larger issues one can pick out from these people’s lives," Har'el said. Film critics – including the Associated Press' Jake Coyle – fawned over the movie. "Alma Har'el's lyrical debut was the unanimous jury choice," Coyle wrote after seeing the movie at the Tribeca Film Festival. "Many fictional films try to portray dignity in rural decay, but the authentically poetic 'Bombay Beach' is the real deal." The movie broke so much new ground in filmmaking that it's now taught in several universities, including Harvard. Har'el was starstruck when she discovered Spike Lee using the film to teach students at NYU.

Her next stop was to the birdhouse

Never one to just stay in one lane, Har'el branched out into making quirky, out-of-the-box commercials for the likes of Stella Artois and Airbnb. For the latter, the home rental site wanted to convey that nobody travels the world like birds do so they made miniature replicas of 50 listings on the site into birdhouses. They asked Har'el to document the process. Fast Company magazine said that the nearly five-minute-long commercial "could double as a pilot for 'Pimp My Birdhouse' (a new show on Animal Planet?)."

'Honey Boy' brought her national acclaim

"Honey Boy," the first scripted feature for the 44-year-old Har'el, premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. It was written by actor Shia LaBeouf, who wrote Har'el a fan letter after seeing "Bombay Beach." As for "Honey Boy," it received critical acclaim and was short-listed for an Oscar nomination. “Har'el’s direction is assured and unpretentious," wrote film critic Sam Fragoso. "Each actor has his moment to transfix the audience, and each seizes it. The sheer rawness of their performances is a testament to Har’el’s ability to create an environment where that’s even possible. To tell someone else’s life story – especially when it’s being told with such brutal honesty – is impressive. To do so with with warmth, intellect, and vulnerability is a Herculean feat.” Har'el won the Directors Guild of America Award for First-Time Feature Film. "Honey Boy" is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.

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