Israeli film 'Advocate' makes Oscar shortlist

Advocate, a portrait of lawyer Lea Tsemel, who has defended terrorists, generated controversy in Israel after it won the Docaviv competition in the spring.

DocAviv festival 2018 (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
DocAviv festival 2018
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
An Israeli film, Advocate by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche, made the shortlist for an Academy Award nomination in the Best Documentary Feature category.
The shortlists for Oscars in nine categories were released by the Academy on Monday night.
Advocate, a portrait of lawyer Lea Tsemel, who has defended terrorists, generated controversy in Israel after it won the Docaviv competition in the spring. Bereaved families of those killed by terrorists protested the choice. Mifal Hapayis, the national lottery that funds a cash prize for Docaviv, responded to the protests by saying it would no longer fund the prize and investigated legal ways to rescind the award to Advocate. In November, the mayor of Ma’alot Tarshiha refused to allow the film to screen at a municipal auditorium as part of the Docaviv Galilee festival, although another venue was found.
Movies from all over the world compete in the documentary category – 159 were submitted this year – and countries do not put forward an official entry, as is the case with the Best International Feature category, formerly known as Best Foreign Language Film. Israel’s official selection in this category, Incitement by Yaron Zilberman, a drama about Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir, did not make the shortlist of 10 films. Another Israeli film, Sameh Zoabi’s Tel Aviv on Fire, which received funding from Luxembourg, was put forward as an official selection by that country and also did not make the list.
The 10 movies that are competing for a nomination this year are from France, South Korea, Spain, Senegal, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, North Macedonia, Poland and Russia. A record 93 countries submitted entries in this category this year. A country’s official entry is usually the Best Picture winner in its film awards, in Israel’s case, the Ophir Awards.
Israel has been nominated 10 times in this category but has never won. It has not had a nominee since Joseph Cedar’s Footnote in 2012 and has not been shortlisted since 2017, when Samuel Maoz’s Foxtrot made the shortlist. There have been many critically acclaimed and commercially successful Israeli films in the past seven years so perhaps the Israel Academy for Film, which votes on the Ophir Awards, may want to rethink how it chooses its winners.
Parasite from South Korea, Pain and Glory from Spain, France’s Les Miserables and Senegal’s Atlantics are considered the top contenders on this list. Two of the films on the shortlist, Hungary’s Those Who Remained and the Czech Republic’s The Painted Bird, have Holocaust themes. The Painted Bird, based on a novel by Jerzy Kosiński, has been called the most graphically violent Holocaust film ever.
Israeli director Dekel Berenson’s short film, Ashmina, which has won prizes in Iran and Iraq and which was considered a contender in the Best Live-Action Short Film category, did not make the shortlist. Last year, Skin, a film by Israeli director Guy Nattiv, won in this category.
The 92nd Academy Award nominations will be announced on January 13 and the awards will be presented at a ceremony on February 9.