Israeli film in running for Academy Award

'39 Pounds of Love' is a documentary film about a 34-year-old muscular dystrophy patient.

39 lbs of love 88 (photo credit: )
39 lbs of love 88
(photo credit: )
A documentary by Israeli filmmakers Ilan Heitner and Dani Menkin is officially in the running for an Academy Award. Although final nominations for "best documentary" won't be handed out until January, Heitner and Menkin's 39 Pounds of Love completed the crucial first step towards Oscar night glory by being selected Tuesday as one of the documentaries under consideration in the voting process leading to a nomination. Members of the Academy's documentary screening committee narrowed an original field of 82 eligible films down to 15, five of which ultimately will receive nominations in the best documentary category. Leading contenders at this stage include Mad Hot Ballroom and March of the Penguins, which earned strong reviews and attracted unexpectedly large and enthusiastic audiences following their American releases earlier this year. 39 Pounds of Love tells the story of Ami Ankilewitz, an American-born Israeli with a severe form of muscular dystrophy that renders him almost entirely immobile. When Ankilewitz was still an infant, his doctor predicted he wouldn't live past the age of six. More than three decades later, Heitner and Menkin filmed Ankilewitz's journey to find the doctor and show him that he had survived. At age 34 during filming, Ankilewitz was accompanied by friends on the trip and uses his one movable finger in his work as a 3D animator. The doctor "didn't take into account the fact that I have the soul of a Harley Davidson," Ankilewitz says at one point during the documentary. The opening film at April's DocAviv documentary festival in Tel Aviv, 39 Pounds of Love won the best documentary award later that month at the Palm Beach Film Festival in Florida. The film has been screened at a number of other American festivals and last month took the prize for best documentary at the Ophir Awards, Israel's equivalent of the Oscars. Final nominees for best documentary and 24 other categories will be announced January 31 in Los Angeles. Winners will be announced at the Academy's seventy-eighth annual awards ceremony on March 5.