Scandar Copti, the Arab-Israeli who co-directed Oscar nominee Ajami with
Jewish-Israeli Yaron Shani, said Sunday, hours before the Academy Award
ceremony in Hollywood, that the film does not represent Israel because
“I cannot represent a country that does not represent me.”
to Channel 2, Copti said, “I am not the Israeli national team and I do
not represent Israel,” adding that the representation issue is a
“technical thing, that’s how it works in the Oscars. It says ‘Israel’
because the funding comes from Israel. There’s a Palestinian director,
an Israeli director, Palestinian actors and Israeli actors. The film
technically represents Israel, but I don’t represent Israel.”
Copti’s co-director, Shani, did not agree.
an Israeli film, it represents Israel, it speaks ‘Israeli’ and deals
with Israel-related problems. The question of representation deals with
matters of perspective and political issues we need to resolve,” Shani,
who was interviewed alongside Copti, said.
Copti and Shani were interviewed only a day after a demonstration took place in Jaffa, Ajami’s setting. Demonstrators took to the streets in protest of what they call police violence against the town’s residents.
and Jiras Copti, brothers of the director, were arrested in Jaffa in
February. After the arrest, they claimed police used excessive force
the third Israeli movie in three years to compete in the foreign film
category of the Academy Awards. It’s the ninth Israeli film ever to be
nominated. On Sunday night, Ajami competes with films from Germany, Peru, France and Argentina.
Angry reactions from top Israeli officials weren’t late in coming.
Sports and Culture Minister Limor Livnat said, “It is because of Israeli
funding, which Copti now tries to renounce, that the film Ajami was produced
and is now nominated for an Oscar.”
“Without state support, Copti would not be walking the red carpet
tonight. In the name of artistic license and pluralism, the movie was
given a budget of more than NIS 2 million. It is sad that a director
supported by the state ignores those who helped him create and express
himself. Happily, the rest of the movie’s team see themselves as part
of the State of Israel and are proud to represent it in the Oscars as
ambassadors of liberated cultural expression,” Livnat added.
Habayit Hayehudi chairman MK Daniel Herschkowitz earlier called on
Livnat to examine how “the man who directed the film with Israeli
funding might wrap himself with a Hamas flag tonight. If the movie wins
an Oscar, it might be a Pyrrhic victory for Israel.”
Other MKs were more angry still.
A furious National Union MK Michael Ben Ari suggested that Israel
change the Cinema Law, which serves as the guidebook to fund Israeli
“Support for a film should not be granted unless the
editors, producers, directors and actors sign a declaration of loyalty
to the State of Israel, its symbols and its Jewish-democratic values,”