(FROM LEFT) Director Avi Nesher on the set of ‘The Other Story’ with actress Joy Rieger and singer Natan Goshen.
(photo credit: MICHAL FATTAL)
Avi Nesher, one of Israel’s most popular and critically acclaimed directors, has announced that he will not be registering his upcoming film, The Other Story, with the Israel Academy of Film and Television. This means it will not be eligible for the Ophir Awards, the awards of the Academy.
The Academy, for its part, has snubbed his movies for years. Although his movies have been loved by both audiences and critics for four decades, he has never once been nominated by this body for a Best Director Award or a Best Screenplay Award.
“The game at the Academy is a foregone conclusion. In a civilized country, there would be a big outcry about this,” he told the Walla! culture website.
The issue of Ophir nominations is important because the winner of the Ophir Award for Best Picture automatically becomes the Israeli selection for consideration for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
Only one of his films, The Matchmaker (2010), has ever received a Best Picture nomination. That year, the two leads in The Matchmaker, Adir Miller and Maya Dagan, who were known for comedy, won the Ophirs for Best Actor and Best Actress for their very dramatic performances. But somehow, the Academy did not feel that the director who took these comedians and turned them into dramatic stars deserved to be nominated, an omission that highlights the absurdity of the Academy’s grudge against Nesher.
Nesher’s films – unlike many of those that do receive nominations – are shown around the world at such festivals as the Toronto International Film Festival and are released internationally. They have received rave reviews in such publications as Variety and The Los Angeles Times. His 1984 film Rage and Glory, about the Lehi underground, was digitally restored and was recently shown at a sold-out screening at the Israeli Film Festival in Paris.
Nesher started his career with the perennially popular musical comedy/drama The Troupe in 1978, when he was in his early 20s. After making several more successful Israeli films, he moved to Hollywood, where he made genre films for years. He returned to the Israeli filmmaking industry in 2004 with Turn Left at the End of the World, a hugely successful film about immigrants living in the Negev. He went on to make such films as The Secrets (2007), about young ultra-Orthodox women; The Matchmaker (2010), a coming-of-age drama about a boy who works for a mysterious Holocaust survivor; The Wonders (2013), the story of a young artist in Jerusalem who discovers that a prominent rabbi has been kidnapped; and Past Life (2016), a fact-based drama about a young female classical musician and her sister, who edits a pornographic magazine in Tel Aviv. If those descriptions sound intriguing, it’s no accident. His films have been at the forefront of the revolution in Israeli film over the past two decades.
I have often written about the Academy’s bizarre snubs of his films, as have many Israeli entertainment writers. Some in the Israeli film industry have speculated that the gatekeepers of the Academy are simply jealous of his success, going back 40 years to The Troupe and to his years in Hollywood.
Mosh Danon, chairman of the Academy, called Nesher’s statements “irresponsible” and said that the nominations simply represented the preferences of the Academy members. He did admit that broadening the Academy membership would make sense.
Nesher’s new film, The Other Story, which stars Yuval Segal (Fauda), Joy Rieger, Maya Dagan and Natan Goshen, will be released in the fall.
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