The world now looks to the Israeli television industry for new series and formats and on Thursday, the Israeli Academy of Film and Television honored its own with its 2021 awards ceremony, which was held at Cinema City in Ramat Hasharon.
The ceremony, which was hosted by Yaniv Bitton for the second year in a row, showcased a peak year for the Israeli television industry in terms of both quality and quantity. At least one series – “Dismissed” – has already been purchased for international distribution and many other shows may end up either being shown around the world or being remade.
Winners at these awards in recent years have included many shows that have gone on to become international hits, such as “Fauda,” “Shtisel,” “Tehran” and “Valley of Tears.” A total of 84 programs and series took part in the competition, competing in 17 main categories and 29 individual categories.
The drama series, “Unknowns,” took the prize for Best Drama Series. “Unknowns” is a gritty crime drama from the Kan 11 network, set in a high school for juvenile delinquents where the students become suspects in a rape. Amir Tessler won the award for Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his role in the series. “Unknowns” was created by Tawfik Abu Wael (Our Boys), Guy Sidis and Nirit Yaron. Abu Wael won the award for directing.
“Dismissed,” also from Kan 11, which tells the story a socially challenged young woman who becomes the commander of a group of troubled female army recruits, won the award for Best Comedy Drama Series and was one of the biggest winners of the night, taking home a total of 10 awards, including for Best Directing and Best Screenplay for the series creator, Atara Frish. Alona Sa’ar and Maya Landsman won the awards for Best Lead Actress and Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, respectively.
The prize for Best Daily Drama went to “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem,” from Yes Studios, which won four awards altogether, including the Best Supporting Actress Award, which was given to Irit Kaplan for portrayal of the matriarch of the Ermozas, a Sephardic family in Jerusalem, in an epic story spanning the Ottoman Empire era to the British Mandate period to Israel’s War of Independence.
The award for Best Comedy Series/Sitcom went to “Cash Register” from Kan 11. Amir Shurush and Dov Navon won the awards for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.
Dana Ivgy won the Best Actress in a Drama Award for her portrayal of real-life bank clerk turned embezzler Etti Alon in “Embezzlement” from Yes Studios.
Sasson Gabay (who starred in the movie, “The Band’s Visit,” and also appeared in the Tony Award-winning Broadway adaptation of the film) won the Supporting Actor Award in a Drama Series for his role in the series, "Playing and Singing,” from Yes Studios
“Wonderful Country” won the Satire and Sketches Program Award for the sixth in a row and took home four awards, including the Best Screenplay Award for an Entertainment, Satire and Sketches program.
In the Reality Show category, the surprise winner was, “Come Dine with Me.”
“The Chase” won for Best Game Show for the fourth time in a row.
The late Guy Balila, one of the creators of the Yes series, “Pushers” (Bney Or), about teens who get involved in drug dealing in Beersheba, who passed away three months ago at age 39, posthumously won the award for Best Screenplay in a Drama Series, along with his co-writer, Elad Bitton.
Kan 11 had 10 winning programs and 17 individual wins, as well as a win for its digital series, “Warriors,” for a total of 27 wins, while Keshet 12 had four winning programs and a total of seven awards and Yes won 10 awards in total.
Among the most emotional moments of the ceremony was the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to the “This Is It” (Zehu Zeh) program, a classic sketch comedy and music show. Cast members Moni Moshonov, Gidi Gov, Doval’e Glickman, Avi Kushnir and Shlomo Bar-Aba took the stage to receive the award and thanked dozens of creators and collaborators of “This Is It,” generations of whom were present in the audience. Muli Segev and members of the “Wonderful Country” ensemble recorded their own, up-to-date performance of the iconic title song of “This Is It.”
The Academy explained in a statement why its members had chosen to honor “This Is It”: “If we open a dictionary and look for the entry on 'Lifetime Achievement on Television,’ we will undoubtedly find 'This Is It’ there. ‘This Is It’ is a program that has no age or audience or expiration date, it is in the public domain and it is the ultimate representation of anything defined as Israeli – and for that it deserves the award.”
Assaf Amir, chair of the Israeli Academy, explained in a statement why its members had chosen to honor “This Is It”: “If we open a dictionary and look for the entry on 'Lifetime Achievement on Television,’ we will undoubtedly find 'This Is It’ there. ‘This Is It’ is a program that has no age or audience or expiration date, it is in the public domain and it is the ultimate representation of anything defined as Israeli – and for that it deserves the award.”
Lior Sasson, CEO of the Israeli Film and Television Academy, added: “The television industry in Israel is excelling in every parameter, we are proud of the broadcasters and platforms in Israel for investing in quality content that travels far beyond our country and local culture. I hope that the next hit global series will start its global journey from here.”
The ceremony was produced by Kastina Communications.