Israel's 'Beaufort' goes for the Oscar

Gambling sites offering four-to-one payout on film; director "just happy to have been nominated."

beaufort film 88 224 (photo credit: )
beaufort film 88 224
(photo credit: )
Sunday night's Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles may see an Israeli film come away with an Oscar for the first time. Gambling Web sites are offering a four-to-one payout on Beaufort, Israel's first finalist in 24 years, winning Best Foreign Film. According to Hollywood insiders, however, The Counterfeiters from Austria is the odds-on favorite for the category. The gambling sites also give even odds to Katyn (Poland) and Mongol (Kazakhstan). In interviews over the past week from Los Angeles, Beaufort director Joseph Cedar downplayed the chances his film would walk away with an Oscar. "I'm happy just to have been nominated. I'm not even thinking about winning," he told reporters. Cedar, who spent last week in Hollywood, was set to attend a public symposium Saturday for the five foreign language film Oscar finalists. The observant director had resolved thorny problems with his Shabbat observance by planning to walk the three kilometers between his hotel and the Samuel Goldwyn Theater where the symposium was taking place. Some 30 cast members and financial backers of Beaufort arrived in California for the ceremonies, which begin at 3:30 Monday morning, Israel time. Many attended the official press conference on Friday for the foreign films nominated. Cedar was accompanied by his wife, journalist Vered Kelner, six-year-old daughter Amelia and three-year-old son Levi, along with his parents - Tzippi, a drama teacher, and Chaim, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Israel Prize laureate, who last month received the 2008 Wolf Prize for "contributions to the control of gene expression and cancer research." Beaufort is the first Israeli film nominated for an Academy Award since Beyond The Walls in 1984. No Israeli film has ever won the coveted award. Cedar's film, which won the Silver Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival last year, is based on the novel by Ron Leshem (who co-wrote the screenplay with Cedar) about the last unit of IDF soldiers to leave Lebanon in 2000. In September, the Israel Film Academy picked Eran Kolirin's The Band's Visit as top picture of the year, automatically making it the country's entry in the Oscar race for best foreign language film. Under the rules of the American academy, more than half of the dialogue in such films must be in the country's own language. However, The Band's Visit, whose characters communicate mainly in broken English, didn't meet the requirement and was disqualified by the Oscar committee. Beaufort, the runner-up, then became Israel's entry.