A short look at Israeli film's chances in Live Action Short Oscar category

'Aya' is a graceful, beautifully acted 39-minute movie that plays like a slightly shorter version of a feature film.

February 22, 2015 11:02
3 minute read.
FRENCH-ISRAELI actress Sarah Adler stars in the Oscar-nominated short film ‘Aya’

FRENCH-ISRAELI actress Sarah Adler stars in the Oscar-nominated short film ‘Aya’. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Another year, another Oscar nomination, this time for Mihal Brezis and Oded Binnun’s Aya, in the Best Live Action Short category.

It’s a sign of the health of the Israeli film industry that many of us now take it for granted that an Israeli movie will be nominated every year. In fact, when Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem, the winner of Israel’s Ophir Award and Israel’s choice for consideration for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar did not get a nomination, people asked me in all seriousness whether I thought this was anti-Semitism.

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The truth is it is perhaps the most competitive category, because all the films eligible – this year, 83 countries submitted movies – are considered the best film of the year in their country. But there’s been no outcry from France, Italy or Denmark over the fact that they didn’t get a Foreign Language Film nomination this year. A rather diverse group of countries received nods in this category: Poland, Russia, Estonia, Mauritania and Argentina, and may the best film win. Israel has been nominated in this category 10 times – four times since 2007 – and there’s always next year.

On to the category in which an Israeli film did get a nod, Best Live Action Short, which is called this to distinguish it from the Best Animated Short Film. As with several categories, including Best Foreign Language Film, voters must show that they have viewed all films in the category to vote. This means that only the people who are aficionados of this category will bother to vote for it.

The nominated films are a diverse group. Aya is a graceful, beautifully acted 39-minute movie that plays like a slightly shorter version of a feature film.

It features two well-known actors, French-Israeli actress Sarah Adler and Danish actor Ulrich Thomsen, in a story about a woman who impulsively poses as the driver for a Finnish music professor visiting Israel, and many fans here are routing for it to win.

But it isn’t the only movie featuring stars. Well-known British actress Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine, Made in Dagenham) stars in The Phone Call, in which she plays a suicide hotline worker fielding a call from a desperate man, voiced by Jim Broadbent, who won a Supporting Actor Oscar for Iris. Directed by Mat Kirkby, this short has been praised for its acting but criticized for its melodrama.

Parvaneh, directed by Talkhon Hamzavi, tells the story a young woman who is a refugee from Afghanistan, trying to make her way at a shelter in the Swiss Alps. It’s well made and definitely has a chance.

The Butter Lamp, directed by Tamdin Dorjem, is a plotless work that features Tibetans posing in front of all different backdrops. This will make it stand out from the others, but it’s not clear whether this will lead to a win.

Boogaloo and Graham, directed by Michael Lennox, would be the most conventional choice. It’s quite short at 14 minutes and tells the story of two cute young brothers in Northern Ireland in the Seventies, whose father brings them chicks to raise when he tells them their mother is having another baby. Cute kids, cute animals, and a backdrop of senseless conflict all combine to make this the likely winner.

This is a strong category this year, and all the films are so different in style and content that it’s very hard to compare them. Aya’s directors were happy to have had the opportunity to visit Hollywood, and to attend the nominees’ luncheon with the likes of Clint Eastwood and Robert Duvall. It will certainly be a thrill if Aya wins, but the main thing is that it will be part of the event, and will be seen by thousands of people who might not have heard of it otherwise.

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