The nominees for the Ophir Awards, the prizes of the Israel Academy for Film (aka the Israeli Oscars), were announced Tuesday in a ceremony in Jaffa.
In what most critics have agreed is an unusually uninspiring year for Israeli films, neither of the winners of the top prizes at the Jerusalem Film Festival, Avishai Sivan’s Tikkun, about an ultra-Orthodox man who becomes disillusioned after a near-death experience, which won the Best Feature Prize, or Doron and Yoav Paz’s Jeruzalem, a zombie movie set in the Holy City, which took the Audience Award, were nominated in any of the major categories.
Only one of the movies nominated for Best Picture has opened in theaters so far: Shemi Zarhin’s The Kind Words. The movie, a popular success in Israel, is about a young woman and her two brothers searching France for the biological father they have never met.
The Kind Words also received nominations for Zarhin for Best Director and Screenplay, as well as Assaf Ben-Shimon for Best Actor, Rotem Zissman-Cohen for Best Actress, Florence Bloch for Best Supporting Actress and Roy Assaf for Best Supporting Actor. The movie also picked up nods for Editing, Casting, Production Design, Costume Design and Soundtrack.
The other nominees for Best Picture are Wounded Land, about police officers in Haifa struggling with the aftermath of a terrorist attack that touches them personally; Wedding Doll, the story of a mentally retarded young woman who works in a toilet paper factory in Mitzpeh Ramon and falls in love with the owner’s son; Baba Joon, a coming-of-age story about the struggle between father and son from Iran; and Stair Cases, a look at two men walking up and down the staircases of Haifa.
In the Best Picture/Fringe Track, 10% My Kid?, about a man who tries to win over his girlfriend’s daughter, is nominated, so technically there are six Best Picture nominees.
As usual, the Best Director category doesn’t quite match up with the Best Picture nominees. Along with Zarhin, the nominees are Erez Tadmor for Wounded Land, Yuval Delshad for Baba Joon, Nitzan Giladi for Wedding Doll and Amir Wolf for Fire Birds, a murder mystery about conmen who pose as Holocaust survivors, which did not get a Best Picture nod.
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Elad Keidan, who directed Stair Cases and didn’t receive a directing nod, is nominated for Best Screenplay, along with Shemi Zarhin for The Kind Worlds, Erez Tadmor and Shlomo Efrati for Wounded Land, Evgeny Ruman for The Man in the Wall (the story of a woman whose husband vanishes), and Anat Asher and Tova Asher for AKA Nadia, about an Arab woman who spends her adult life posing as Jewish.
The biggest winner in the Ophir process so far is undoubtedly Roy Assaf, who, in addition to his nomination as Best Supporting Actor for The Kind Words, received two Best Actor nominations, for his role as the factory owner’s son in Wedding Doll and a policeman under pressure in Wounded Land. Last year, Dana Ivgy walked off with two Ophir Awards, one in the Best Actress category for Zero Motivation, and the other for Best Supporting Actress in Next to Her, but even she did not receive three nominations.
The other nominees in the Best Actor category (in addition to Assaf Ben Shimon for his role as Roy Assaf’s brother in The Kind Words) were Oded Teomi for Fire Birds, and Moshe Ivgy for The 90 Minute War, a mockumentary about an attempt to resolve the Middle East conflict with a soccer match.
In addition to Zissman-Cohen for The Kind Words, the other Best Actress nominees are Moran Rosenblatt for her performance as a disabled woman in Wedding Doll, Miriam Zohar for Fir Birds; Netta Shpigelman for her role as a Palestinian woman who pretends to be Jewish in AKA Nadia; and Tamar Alkan as a woman coping with her husband’s disappearance in The Man in the Wall.
In addition to Assaf for The Kind Words, the Best Supporting Actor nominees are Asher Abrahami for Baba Joon, Gal Toren for Moon at House 12, Dvir Benedek for Wounded Land, and Norman Issa for The 90 Minute War.
The Best Supporting Actress nominees, besides Florence Bloch for The Kind Words, are Assi Levy for Wedding Doll, Devora Kedar for Blue Bird, Yuval Scharf for Moon at House 12, and Mili Levi Gerson for Atomic Falafel.
The Best Documentary nominees are Once Upon a Time There Was a King, Sabena, Matti Caspi – Confession, The Bentwich Syndrome and Censored Voices.
The winner of the Ophir Award for Best Picture becomes Israel’s official selection to be considered for one of the five nominations for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
Although Israeli movies have received four Best Feature film nominations in the past eight years, given the likelihood that the crowd-pleasing, sit-com style The Kind Words will win there isn’t much chance of another Oscar nod this year.
The Ophir Awards will be given out in a ceremony on September 21.
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