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Veteran Israeli thespian and film actor Sasson Gabai was voted Actor of the Year at the European Film Awards held in Berlin on Saturday. Gabai won the prize for the lead role in Eran Kolirin's The Band's Visit. Kolirin also walked away with a trophy after he was named "Discovery of the Year".
The Band's Visit tells the fictional story of an Egyptian orchestra that arrives in Israel as a guest of an Arabic music cultural center in Petah Tikva, but mistakenly ends up in a remote, southern town.
"It is a great honor," Gabai said after winning. "I didn't believe it would happen. I was very happy... to see my name listed among nominees like Michel Piccoli, James McCavoy and other heavyweights whom I've admired for years."
Ronit Elkabetz, Khalifa Natour and Salah Bakri co-star in the film alongside Gabai.
The film has already won eight Israeli Ophir prizes and was nominated in five European Academy Award categories. It also won the prestigious Sakura Prize in the International Tokyo Film Festival, the Jury Prize and Audience Favorite Prize in the International Copenhagen Film Festival and the Best Director in the Athens Festival.
The film was disqualified from the American Academy Awards in the foreign language film category because most of the dialogue between the Israeli and Egyptian characters is in broken English.
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