There is a great deal of anticipation and suspense about this year’s Ophir
Awards, the awards for the Israel Academy of Film, which will be held tonight in
Haifa, and broadcast on Channel 2 at 10:30 p.m. The show will be hosted by actor
That’s because, unlike in some years when one film clearly
dominates the field, this year there are a number of films that have received
critical acclaim both here and, even more so, abroad.
It’s been years
since there has been such a strong crop of films contending for these prizes.
And it’s very much on the minds of the Ophir voters that the film that wins the
Best Picture Award here will be eligible for an Oscar nomination in the Best
Foreign Language Film category.
This does not mean that the Ophir winner
automatically gets an Oscar nomination – approximately 70 countries submit films
for the five nomination spots in this category each year – but it will be
Israel’s official selection.
Since three Israeli films in a row in the
past few years – Joseph Cedar’s Beaufort,
Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir
and Yaron Shani’s Ajami
– received nominations for the Best
Foreign Language Oscar, it’s likely the voters will go for whatever film they
think will appeal to Hollywood. No Israeli film has yet won an Foreign-Language
The two apparent front-runners, Joseph Cedar’s Footnote
, have each won major awards abroad: Footnote
took the top
screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival this year, while Restoration won
Best Screenplay at Sundance and Best Picture at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival
in the Czech Republic. It was shown at the Toronto Film Festival as well, while
Footnote will be shown in the New York Film Festival, which starts at the end of
The Ophir nominating committee gave these films nominations in
multiple categories, 13 for Footnote
and 11 for Restoration
. The films also have
similar themes: Footnote
is about the troubled relationship and rivalry between
a father and son, both of whom are Talmud scholars in Jerusalem, while
is about a troubled relationship between a father who works with his
hands and a son who is a yuppie lawyer in Tel Aviv.
But it was a surprise
that Marco Carmel’s My Lovely Sister
, a movie about the troubled relationship
between two sisters, received 11 nominations, as many as
ROUNDING OUT the Best Picture category are Maya Kenig’s
about the troubled relationship between a father and his
estranged daughter, and Nadav Lapid’s Policeman
, the most political of the five
Best Picture nominees, about an anti-terrorist policeman who becomes involved
with a group of terrorists.
Chances are that the Academy will go with one
of the four troubled-relationship movies, since Policeman
is a movie that, so
far, has sharply divided audiences. Along with Footnote
, it is being shown at
this year’s New York Film Festival, and it is a film likely to do better at
foreign film festivals than with the Academy.
Whenever award nominations
are handed out, there are always snubs. Since Avi Nesher, the director the
Academy loves to ignore, didn’t make a movie this year, they chose to nearly
shut out My Australia
, which won the Audience Award at the Jerusalem Film
Festival and certainly the movie I enjoyed the most there. This story of a
single Jewish mother in Poland in the Sixties, who has kept her sons’ religious
background a secret from them and then suddenly moves the family to Israel, was
one of the most appealing and best acted films I’ve seen all year. However, it
was nominated only for Best Costumes. Jakub Wroblewski as the younger brother
gave one of the best performances by a child actor I’ve ever seen and his
omission from the support actor category is strange.
So who did get
nominated for the acting awards? A mixture of well-known and newer actors are
competing this year. The Israeli Academy is a bit more predictable than the
Oscars, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the lead and supporting actress awards go
to Evelyn Hagoel and Reymonde Amsallem, respectively, for their memorable
performances as tormented sisters of Moroccan descent from My Lovely Sister.
These two actresses have been giving wonderful performances in less showy movies
for years and have not gotten quite as much recognition as some of their peers.
Moran Rosenblat, nominated in the Supporting Actress category for her role in
, was a bright spot in that otherwise dull and pretentious film, but I
doubt she will win.
In the Best Actor category, I expect Shlomo Bar Aba
to edge out Sasson Gabai in Restoration
, since Gabai took home the
prize in 2007 for The Band’s Visit.
Lior Ashkenazi could also have been
nominated for Footnote in this category, since his part is just about as large
as Bar Aba’s, but he got a Supporting Actor nod. Although Ashkenazi gave what
was arguably the best performance of his career, I think the award will go to
newcomer Henry David in Restoration, who is the unquestionable standout of that
Finally, my guess is that Footnote
will edge out Restoration, since
the Academy has honored Cedar twice in the past (for Time of Favor and Campfire)
and gave Beaufort the chance to represent Israel at the Oscars when it turned
out the Ophir winner, The Band’s Visit
, had too much English dialogue to qualify
for that category.
In any case, expect an overlong and dull telecast,
which has become an Ophir tradition – the better Israeli films get, the more
boring the awards become: Why is that? You can think it over during the dull