Israeli film takes top prize at Sundance

'Sand Storm' won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic.

Israeli director Elite Zexer (photo credit: Courtesy)
Israeli director Elite Zexer
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sand Storm, a movie by Israeli director Elite Zexer (pictured), won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on Saturday night. The movie, which is Zexer’s feature-film debut, tells the story of a Beduin woman (Ruba Blal-Asfour) forced to welcome her husband’s second wife, and how she copes with her own rebellious, educated daughter (Lamis Ammar). Haitham Omari, a former cameraman who became a star when he made his acting debut as the militia leader in Yuval Adler’s Bethlehem, plays the father.
Zexer said, when accepting her prize, “Oh my god, I‘m so nervous I’m shaking. I feel it’s been such a week of talking and talking and now that I have to say something, I’m speechless. I’m so happy it premiered here. I’m sorry my crew had to go home and not experience this with me.
I couldn’t have done this without them. I want to thank my producers who are not my producers but my family.”
The movie received positive reviews from Variety, the Hollywood Reporter and other publications. It will be distributed by Beta Films and will have its European premiere at the Berlin Film Festival.
Many Israeli films have won prizes at Sundance in the past, among them Dror Shaul’s Sweet Mud, which won the World Cinema Jury Prize Dramatic in 2007, and Yossi Madmoni’s Restoration, which won the World Cinema Dramatic Screenwriting Award for Erez Kav-El’s screenplay in 2011.
Nate Parker’s slave rebellion drama The Birth of a Nation won the Grand Jury and Audience Awards in the US competition.
The US Documentary Grand Jury Prize went to Weiner, about disgraced New York politician Anthony Weiner.
In the World Cinema Dramatic competition, Manolo Cruz and Carlos del Castillo’s Between Sea And Land from Colombia took the Audience Award and a Special Jury Award for acting for Cruz and Vicky Hernandéz.
The Sundance Film Festival was founded in 1985 by actor/director Robert Redford to showcase independent cinema.