The Haggiag Family Awards for Israeli Cinema
In memory of ROBERT NISSIM HAGGIAG (1913-2009)
Robert Nissim Haggiag was involved in movie production and distribution for more than 40 years. He produced, co-produced, and financed over 50 pictures, many of which achieved international success, such as Moulin Rouge by John Huston; Anthony Mann’s El Cid, with Charlton Heston and Sofia Loren; Joseph Manckiewicz’s The Barefoot Contessa with Ava Gardner and Humprey Bogart; Beat the Devil with Humphrey Bogart and Jennifer Jones, directed by John Huston; Lolita by Stanley Kubrick; Diary of a Chamber Maid by Luis Buסuel; Five Miles To Midnight by Anatole Litvak, starring Sofia Loren and Anthony Perkins; Candy from the screenplay by Buck Henry, starring Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, Walter Matthau, and Ringo Starr; and Legend of the Lost, with John Wayne and Sofia Loren. He also produced and/or financed many Italian films, notably Shoeshine directed by Vittorio De Sica, and Pietro Germi’s The Birds, the Bees and the Italians for which he received the Palme d’Or at Cannes and the prestigious Italian David di Donatello Award for Best Producer. His more recent ventures were Ken Russell’s version of Lady Chatterley, co-produced with his son, Michael Haggiag, in association with the BBC and London Films, and the co-production in London’s West End, together with Eric Abraham, of the play Embers, written by Christopher Hampton, starring Jeremy Irons, and based on the literary masterpiece by Sandor Marai.
Throughout his career as producer, he was also involved in motion picture studios. In the late 1940s he acquired the Scalera Studios in Rome and Venice (the only independent studios in Italy at the time). He later partnered up with Angelo Rizzoli to create Dear Film, of which he later became the sole owner. In the 1960s he purchased the INCOM Studios (later renamed Dear Studios) together with the Agnelli family, which he later also acquired outright. During that period, Dear Film became the largest film distributor in Italy, having exclusive rights to films of the major US studios—Warner Brothers, United Artists, Twentieth Century Fox, ABC, and Cinerama, as well as the British Rank Studios. In 1964, he participated in a joint venture to acquire control of Warner Brothers. The group later sold the company to Steve Ross, who then created the multimedia company, Time Warner. When the American studios created their own presence in Italy, Dear Film discontinued its theatrical distribution activities, limiting itself to TV distribution of its own library of films. He also later acquired a minority stake in Cinecittא Studios and served on its board.
Robert Nissim Haggiag, a Sephardic-Jewish immigrant from Libya, died in 2009. He is buried in Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives. He is survived by his wife, Mirella, his two sons Michael and Simone, his step-son Jacopo, six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
As a worthy commemoration and natural continuation of his work, the family decided to honor his legacy by dedicating awards at the Jerusalem International Film Festival to his memory. He would most certainly be proud of the international achievements of the Israeli cinema in Israel and around the world.