Ophir Awards to be given out on Friday

This is an unusual year for the Israeli film industry, to put it mildly, because the coronavirus has forced theaters to stay shut since March.

'Africa' (photo credit: ADI MOSES)
(photo credit: ADI MOSES)
The Israeli Academy of Film and Television will announce the winners of the Ophir Awards for the best in Israel cinema this year, in a special broadcast of Koby Meidan’s Culture Agent program on November 13 at 3 p.m. on KAN 11.
The winner of the Best Picture award will go on to become Israel’s official selection for consideration for a Best International Feature Oscar nomination, formerly known as Best Foreign Language Film. Israel has been nominated in this category 10 times but has never won.
This is an unusual year for the Israeli film industry, to put it mildly, because the coronavirus has forced theaters to stay shut since March. But the approximately one thousand members of the Academy have been able to see the eligible films online
Assaf Amir, the chairman of the Israeli Academy and a movie producer who has made more than 30 films, including Rama Burshtein’s Fill the Void and Nir Bergman’s Intimate Grammar, said the Academy had hoped the pandemic would end and they would be able hold the usual ceremony in a crowded auditorium. “But we have to choose a movie that will represent Israel in the US. And it’s no less important to honor the creators. I hope the broadcast will be festive,” he said.
Sixty films were considered for awards in 18 categories. The five films nominated for the Ophir Award for Best Picture are Africa by Oren Gerner, which tells the story of an ailing father and his son, which won three awards at the Haifa International Film Festival in 2019, including Best Film; Aspiration for Life by Matan Guggenheim and Assaf Aviri, about an elderly man placed in a nursing home against his will, who gets involved in crime and medical cannabis; Nir Bergman’s Here We Are, a drama about a father and his autistic son on a road trip, which was accepted into the Cannes Film Festival this year; Ruthy Pribar’s Asia, about a complicated mother-daughter relationship, which won several prizes at the Tribeca Film Festival; and Ram Loevy’s The Dead of Jaffa, about an Arab family haunted by the past.
The nominees for Best Actor are Shlomo Bar-Aba for Aspiration for Life; Shai Avivi for Here We Are; Yussuf Abu-Warda for The Dead of Jaffa; Meir Gerner for Africa; and Shadi Mar’i, who starred on Fauda, for This Night.
The nominees for Best Actress are Alena Yiv for Asia; Joy Rieger for Aspiration for Life; Nelly Tagar for Paris Boutique; Naama Preis for God of the Piano; and Ruba Blal Asfour for The Dead of Jaffa.
Shira Haas, one of Israel’s biggest stars, who was nominated for an Emmy for the television series Unorthodox, and who won the Best Actress Award at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival for her performance in Asia, is nominated in the supporting actress Ophir category for that film.
While acknowledging that the film industry is going through a tough time now, especially given that 95% of those who work in movies are freelancers, Amir said he is convinced it will bounce back once the pandemic ends.
“Of course, filmmakers are weighing the possibility of releasing their movies on streaming platforms. But it doesn’t have the impact of showing a movie in a theater,” he said.
“This is one of the sectors that has been hardest hit by the pandemic,” he said. “What’s important now is to promote and support the movies as much as we can until we can show them in theaters.”