Academy aspirations

The yet-be-announced Ophir Award winner may just have a chance at an Oscar.

jellyfish 88 298 (photo credit: Courtesy )
jellyfish 88 298
(photo credit: Courtesy )
The nominations for the Ophir Awards (also known as the Israeli Oscars), were announced yesterday by the Israeli Academy for Film and Television. Three of the five nominees for Best Picture have already won top prizes at prestigious international film festivals around the world. While several of the movies nominated for the Ophirs (named in memory of Israeli actor Shaike Ophir) have yet to open here, it's a happy irony that international audiences and festival juries have already given them their stamp of approval. The awards will be given out at a ceremony on September 20 in Tel Aviv. Sixteen feature films and 53 documentaries were eligible for the awards this year and out of those, the five that made the cut for Best Picture were: Joseph Cedar's Beaufort, which won the Best Director Award at the Berlin Film Festival and tells the tragic story of the last Israeli unit to leave Lebanon in 2000; Jellyfish, directed by writers Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen, which won the prestigious Camera d'Or Prize at Cannes this year and tells interlocking stories set near the beach in Tel Aviv; David Volach's My Father My Lord, which won the top prize for feature films at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, the story of an ultra-Orthodox family in crisis that takes a vacation; The Band's Visit, Eran Kolirin's bittersweet comedy about an Egyptian police orchestra that ends up spending a night in a remote Negev town, which competed at Cannes and won a jury prize there; and Ayelet Menahemi's Noodle, the story of a Tel Aviv stewardess who befriends the abandoned son of her Chinese cleaning woman. The winner of the Best Picture Award becomes Israel's official submission for one of the five nominations for the Best Foreign Language film Oscar in America. No Israeli film has been nominated since Beyond the Walls in 1984 and no Israeli film has ever won this honor. But the high quality of this year's nominees and their success at film festivals around the world may increase their chance this year. The Israeli Academy was just accepted to be part of the European Film Academy and this year's nominees will be eligible for nominations there. One notable but predictable snub in the major awards was the omission of Best Picture and Best Director nominations for Avi Nesher's commercially successful drama, The Secrets. The snub was predictable because the same thing happened to Nesher three years ago with his film, Turn Left at the End of the World, which received only technical and acting nominations. Back in 2004, there was speculation that the success of Turn Left, which sold nearly half a million tickets, caused resentment and suspicion among Academy voters. But Secrets did get several acting nominations, for Ania Bokstein in the Best Actress category, Michal Shtlamler for Best Supporting Actress and Adir Miller for Best Supporting Actor. The movie also received nominations for soundtrack and score, as well as several production awards. In addition to Bokstein, the Best Actress nominees are: Ronit Elkabetz, The Band's Visit; Sarah Adler, Jellyfish; Mili Avital, Noodle ; and Keren Mor, Foul Gesture. The Best Actor nominees are: Oshri Cohen, Beaufort; Sasson Gabay, The Band's Visit; Liron Levo, Strangers; Assi Dayan, My Father, My Lord; and Gal Zaid, Foul Gesture. The nominees for Best Supporting Actress are: Rinat Matatov, The Band's Visit; Neta Garty, The Debt; Michal Shtamler, The Secrets; Zaharira Harifai, Jellyfish; and Anat Waxman, Noodle. One surprise in the Best Supporting Actor category was that no one from the brilliant Beaufort ensemble cast got a nomination. The nominees in this category are: Salah Bacri, The Band's Visit; Adir Miller, The Secrets; Tzahi Grad, Foul Gesture; Yiftach Klein, Noodle and Asher Zarfati, Foul Gesture. In the Best Director category, the nominees matched the Best Picture nominees, with the exception of David Volach, who failed to receive a nomination for My Father My Lord. In his place, Tzahi Grad was nominated for Foul Gesture. But Volach did receive a screenplay nomination. In the highly competitive Best Documentary category, the nominees are: Limor Pinhasov's Mother Returns Home, about a foreign worker returning to her family; Yoav Garfinkel's Old-Time Stores, a look at how times have changed in retailing; Ido Har's 9-Star Hotel, about Palestinian workers building Modi'in; Nadav Schirman's The Champagne Spy, the life story of Israeli spy Wolfgang Lotz; and Ibtisam Mara'ana's Three Times Divorced, a look at divorce in the Muslim world. Cinematheques throughout the country will be showing all the nominated films throughout the coming months.