The personal trumps the political in nominations for Israel's top movie prize

Traditional family dramas and coming-of-age stories crowd out potentially controversial films in the race for this year's Ophir Awards.

ophir award 88 (photo credit: )
ophir award 88
(photo credit: )
There were few surprises when nominees for the Ophir Awards, also known as Israel's Oscars, were announced Tuesday at a press conference in Tel Aviv. The awards, the top prizes of the Israel Academy of Film and Television, will be awarded September 14 at the Tel Aviv Opera House, with the ceremony to be televised on Channel 2. The winner of the Best Picture prize will serve as Israel's submission in the contest for a Best Foreign Film nomination at the 2007 Academy Awards in Los Angeles. The Ophir nominees were notable for their almost complete lack of political content, as if, in the midst of a war, the Israeli academy members preferred to emphasize films focused on personal themes. Out of the 21 feature films considered for the Best Picture Award, the nominees were: Aviva My Love, the story of a hotel cook in Tiberias who dreams of being a writer; Sweet Mud, a coming-of-age story about a boy on a kibbutz whose mother is mentally ill; Things Behind the Sun, about a man who looks back on his own life when his father is dying; Someone to Run With, an adaptation of David Grossman's novel about two Jerusalem adolescents on the fringes of the drug scene; and Three Mothers, a look at triplets born to a Jewish family in Alexandria, Egypt, and their move to Israel. Notably absent were The Bubble, Eytan Fox's look at a romance between two men, one Jewish and one Palestinian, which was accepted into the highly competitive Toronto International Film Festival; Dan Wolman's Tied Hands, another gay-themed film about a mother caring for a son who is dying of AIDS; Dror Sabo's Dead End, a critique of Israel's reality TV culture, which won the coveted Wolgin Award at the Jerusalem Film Festival last month; and Udi Aloni's highly stylized critique of the Israeli occupation, Forgiveness. Wolman did receive a nomination for Best Director for Tied Hands, as did the directors of all five movies nominated for Best Picture. Gila Almagor, the first lady of Israeli cinema and the leading actress in Tied Hands, was nominated as Best Actress for her performance. The Bubble picked up nominations for Supporting Actor (Yosef Sweid), Best Score (Ivri Lider) and Best Soundtrack. Itay Tiran got a Best Actor nomination for his work in Forgiveness. All five screenplays of the films nominated for Best Picture received nominations for Best Screenplay. In addition to Almagor, the nominees for Best Actress are: Asi Levy, Aviva My Love; Ronit Yudkevitch, Sweet Mud; Bar Belfer, Someone to Run With; and Anat Klauzner, Frozen Days. The nominees for Best Actor, besides Tiran, are: Dror Keren, Aviva My Love; Tomer Steinhof, Sweet Mud; Assi Dayan, Things Behind the Sun; and Rami Heuberger, Dear Mr. Waldman. Other than Sweid in The Bubble, whose work arguably could be considered a lead performance, the other nominees for Best Supporting Actor are: Sason Gabai, Aviva My Love; Zohar Strauss, Things Behind the Sun; Tzahi Grad, Someone to Run With; and Alon Abutbul, Only Dogs Want to Be Free. There are six nominees in the Best Supporting Actress category: Rotem Abuhav, Aviva My Love; Yael Poliakov, She Has No God; Tess Hashiloni, Things Behind the Sun; Rinat Matatov, Someone to Run With; Evelyn Kaplun, Dear Mr. Waldman; and Ayelet Zorer, Only Dogs Want to Be Free. Even this year's Best Documentary category is notable for its lack of films on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The nominees here are: All is Well By Me, a look at singer Josie Katz; Paper Dolls, the story of Filipino men who work with the elderly in Tel Aviv by day and by night have a cabaret drag act; The Cemetery Club, about a group of opinionated elderly Israelis; Souvenirs, a portrait of a father who may have fathered a child in Europe during World War II; and Strike!, about a group of striking workers. Director Nadav Levitan, who made such films as Stalin's Children, was named this year's Lifetime Achievement honoree. In spite of the lack of controversial political films among the nominees, the awards usually end up generating some kind of controversy, at least among members of the Israeli entertainment industry. But this year's predictable nominees don't seem likely to attract much interest.