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(photo credit: Courtesy)
The 23rd Jerusalem Film Festival concluded Saturday night with an upset win for Dror Sabo's Dead End, which unexpectedly took home the Wolgin Award for Best Israeli Feature. Dead End, the story of a film student making a reality television show about his friend's rehabilitation from a mysterious injury, beat out the rumored favorite, Shemi Zarhin's Aviva My Love, about a woman who becomes a novelist late in life. The Wolgin Features Prize carries a cash award of NIS 190,000, the largest in the festival. Dead End star Gal Zayid shared the Best Actor Award with Assi Dayan, who earned notice for his role in Things Behind the Sun.
Aviva My Love did win awards in other categories: for Best Screenplay (Shemi Zarhin) and Best Actress (Assi Levy). A special acting award was given to Gila Almagor for her performances in Dina Zvi-Riklis' Three Mothers and Dan Wolman's Tied Hands.
The jury for the Wolgin Features prize included actress Debra Winger and producer Sharon Harel (Gosford Park).
The Wolgin Award for Best Israeli Documentary was split between Ido Haar's 9 Star Hotel and Shai Carmeli Pollak's Bil'in Habibti, both films about the Modi'in area. 9 Star Hotel tells the story of Palestinian workers who are building the city, and Bil'in Habibti is about the residents of an Arab village near Modi'in Elit fighting for territory they expect to lose in the construction of the security barrier.
Shimon Shai's Road Marks, starring Moshe Ivgy as a tyrannical father, took the Wolgin Award for Best Short Film. Shai studied at the Sam Spiegel School of Film & Television in Jerusalem. Another Sam Spiegel student, Rodeon Brodsky, received an honorable mention for his short film, Tolya, about a foreign worker who is unable to speak.
The Drama Award in Memory of Anat Pirchi was split between Mortgage, directed by Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit, a look at a couple from Ramle who can't pay their mortgage, and Jony Arbid's Ringo & Taher, the story of an Arab boy who adopts a dog.
The Wim van Leer in the Spirit of Freedom Awards, given in memory of the husband of festival founder and director Lia van Leer, went to Jasmila Zbanic for the Bosnian film Grbavica, about a girl who believes her father was a war hero. An honorable mention went to Caf Transit, a French-Iranian co-production about a widow who runs a caf on the Iranian-Turkish border. The documentary award in this category went to Helene Klodawsky's No More Tears Sister, about a former Sri Lankan revolutionary who begins to fight for an end to the conflict in that country. An honorable mention went to Julie Gal's October's Cry, a look at the Orr Commission investigation of the killing of 13 Israeli Arabs in 2000.
The Jewish Experience Awards featured the LIA Award, which honors festival founder van Leer and is given to a film dealing with Jewish heritage. It went to Joseph Morder's El Cantor, a French film about a family with some secrets. An honorable mention went to Chanoch Zeevi's Nadia's Friends, a look at a friendship between a Jew and an Arab. The Yad Vashem Award for artistic achievement in Holocaust-related films went to Nina's Journey, directed by Lena Einhorn, the story of how one woman survived the Holocaust, and an honorable mention went to Richard Dembo's Nina's House, a look at a woman who starts a Jewish orphanage after World War II.
If you missed these prize winners at the film festival, don't worry - many of them will be shown at the Jerusalem Cinematheque in the coming months, and a handful will be released theatrically.
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