Whatever movies win the Ophir Awards, the prizes of the Israel Academy for Film, which will be presented on September 21 in the Krieger Auditorium in Haifa, the stakes are higher than ever.

The Ophir Awards have taken on more significance in recent years, as the Israeli film industry has gained international recognition. The winner of the Ophir Award for Best Picture is Israel’s official selection for a nominee for Best Foreign Language Film at the US Academy Awards.

In the past five years, four Israeli films have received one of the five coveted nominations in this category: Joseph Cedar’s Beaufort and Footnote, Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir and Yaron Shani and Scandar Copti’s Ajami. Although none of them won, receiving so many nominations has been a big boost for the Israeli film industry.

But it’s still a small industry, and the glaring omission of two of the year’s best films from the Ophir categories – Eytan Fox’s Yossi and Amni Livne’s Sharqiya – raises the question not of the academy members’ taste but of their judgment. Fox’s film was a spirited, very enjoyable follow-up to his 2002 film Yossi & Jagger and featured some of the year’s best acting.

Sharqiya, which won the Best Israeli Feature Film Award at the Jerusalem Film Festival this summer, is a realistic look at a young Beduin man who works as a security guard.

So keeping these two distinguished but nomination-less films in mind, here is a list of Ophir nominations I would like to have seen:

Best Actors Who Weren’t Nominated for an Ophir

Ohad Knoller, who reprises his role from Yossi & Jagger in Yossi. Knoller won a Best Actor Award at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2003 for his performance in Yossi & Jagger and appeared in Joseph Cedar’s Beaufort, Steven Spielberg’s Munich and Fox’s The Bubble, as well as the TV series Srugim.

Adnan Abu Wadi, the lead actor in Sharqiya. Abu Wadi, a non-professional, holds the screen with his quiet, low-key presence and is in virtually every frame of the film. At the premiere party following the film’s screening at the Jerusalem Film Festival, this actor was mobbed by fans and movie-industry types hoping to cast in him in more films.

Best Performance by an Israeli Actor in a Hollywood Film (this category has been extended to include movies from the past five years)

Alon Aboutboul (actually nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Ophir this year for his role in The Dealers) for playing an Eastern European scientist whose invention is stolen by the bad guys in The Dark Knight Rises (his character is named Dr. Pavel) and for his role as a master terrorist in Body of Lies (2008). Aboutboul was equally at ease being tortured by a villain in Dark Knight as he was as a brilliant but evil terror leader in Body of Lies.

Ashraf Barhom – He was a Saudi policeman in The Kingdom and part of a large ensemble in the tempest-in-a-toga movie Clash of the Titans. The actor, who appeared quite memorably in the Israeli films The Syrian Bride and Colombian Love, stars in two upcoming Israeli films – Eran Ricklis’s Zaytoun, about an Israeli pilot shot down over Lebanon, and Hiam Abbass’s Inheritance, about the conflicts among members of a family in the Galilee.

Uri Gavriel (actually nominated for a Best Actor Ophir this year for his performance as a brooding musician in The Ballad of the Weeping Spring) for his small but key role in The Dark Knight Rises as a character listed in the credits as Blind Prisoner and for his equally important role in the 2007 film The Kingdom as a master terrorist. His trademark glower was appropriately menacing in these parts.

Ayelet Zurer (who hasn’t appeared in an Israeli movie since 2007) for her role opposite Tom Hanks in Angels & Demons (2009), the sequel to The Da Vinci Code, as a character named Vittoria Vetra. This beautiful actress was a bit wan as she ran from church to church with an oddly coiffed Hanks but was credible as an Italian. She’ll be seen next in as part of Superman’s biological family in the upcoming Man of Steel starring Henry Cavill and Russell Crowe.

Most Intriguing Movie Israelis Haven’t Seen Yet

Ultra-Orthodox director Rama Burshtein’s Fill the Void was shown at film festivals in Venice (where its young star, Hadas Yaron, won the Best Actress Award) and Toronto, but it won’t be shown here until the Haifa International Film Festival in October.

Ophir Best Picture Nominee Most Likely Not To Succeed Abroad

A five-way tie among all of them: The Ballad of the Weeping Spring, an elaborate conceit based on the Seven Samurai about a group of Mizrahi musicians reuniting for one last concert; Fill the Void, about a young haredi bride-to-be whose family is struck by tragedy; God’s Neighbors, the story of a newly devout Breslav Hassid in Bat Yam who, along with friends, terrorizes secular neighbors; The World Is Funny, a comedy unlikely to strike those outside Israel as very humorous; and Rock the Casbah, a drama about a group of Israeli soldiers policing the Gaza Strip in the 1980s.

As for the actual Ophir ceremony, expect to see an overly long broadcast, rumpled men in jeans and T-shirts, and starlets in slinky gowns.

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