‘Foxtrot’ premieres at Venice Film Festival

Shmulik Maoz’s film, a follow-up to his popular ‘Lebanon,’ has been nominated for 13 Ophir Awards and already has Miri Regev angry.

A scene from Shmulik Maoz’s ‘Foxtrot.’ (photo credit: GIORA BEJACH)
A scene from Shmulik Maoz’s ‘Foxtrot.’
(photo credit: GIORA BEJACH)
Eight years after the critical success of Lebanon, Israeli filmmaker Shmulik Maoz is returning to the international spotlight with Foxtrot.
The film, which like Lebanon is centered around Israeli military service, is premiering on Friday at the Venice International Film Festival. It is one of the 21 feature-length films competing for prizes at the prestigious event.
Lebanon won the illustrious Golden Lion award for best film when it competed at the Venice Film Festival in 2009 – the first and still only Israeli film to have done so.
Foxtrot tells the story of Israeli parents who are notified that their son was killed during his army service. But was he? Audiences watch as the mother and father are consumed by grief, and also gain insight into the absurd life their son, Yonatan, had during his time stationed at a remote military post.
The first full trailer for the film was released on Wednesday, featuring moving performances by Lior Ashkenazi, Sarah Adler and Yonatan Shirai. The film is named for the dance Yonatan performs with his gun during a moment of utter boredom at his post.
In addition to the international buzz, the film is also winning acclaim at home. Though it has yet to premiere, Foxtrot was nominated for 13 Ophir Awards – the Israeli Oscars – making it also a possible contender for Israel’s foreign language submission to the Academy Awards. In addition to a nomination for best picture, it also received nods for best director, best actor, best supporting actress and more. The film will premiere in Israel at the Lev Tel Aviv theater on September 6. It will also be showing at the Toronto International Film Festival starting September 9.
But Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev only had harsh words for the feature film. Though she admitted she had yet to see the film, Regev called it a disgrace and lamented it receiving any public funding. The film was granted funding from the Israel Film Fund in 2013, when Limor Livnat was the minister; it was also partially sponsored by funds in Germany, France and Switzerland.
“It is a disgrace that the film Foxtrot by Shmulik Maoz has been chosen to be screened at prestigious film festivals like Toronto and Venice,” said Regev last week. “It is inconceivable that movies that shame the reputation of the IDF are those that are supported by the Israel Film Fund, which is supported by the state. And those are the films that are selected to showcase Israeli cinema abroad.”
Regev vowed that in the future, under her watch, films like this, “which display contempt for the state and its symbols,” will not receive any funding.
“I won’t allow support for films that play into the hands of our enemies and are created on the backs of IDF soldiers and the State of Israel.”
Regev has repeatedly vowed to pull funding from films and film funds that she believes attack the Jewish state.
In response, Maoz posted a defense of the film and of freedom of expression. He praised Katriel Schory, the longtime executive director of the Israeli Film Fund, “who could have retired a long time ago, and set sail on his boat and play with his grandchildren. But he stays out of concern, responsibility and a sense of mission, to preserve freedom of expression.”
Schory, he said, is “like a spoke in the wheel of [Regev’s] shredder... he is straightforward and intelligent and modest and transparent, and she has nothing to hold on to except her mantra on rotation.”
Maoz said that he even had “just a moment” where he found himself “missing Limor Livnat,” and quoted Hanoch Levin saying that “every low point is the peak of a new low point.”