The Cakemaker’s sweet Ophir win

The first two presenters, ultra-Orthodox director Rama Burshtein and Arab director Maysaloun Hamoud, embodied the diversity of the Israeli film industry.

A scene from 'The Cakemaker' (photo credit: Courtesy)
A scene from 'The Cakemaker'
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Cakemaker, a movie about the relationship between a gay German baker and a Jerusalem widow, was the big winner at this year’s Ophir Awards, the prizes of the Israel Film Academy, which were awarded in a ceremony on Thursday at the Ashdod Performing Arts Center.
The Cakemaker won Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay for writer/director Ofir Raul Graizer and Best Actress for Sarah Adler, as well as several other awards.
Graizer, in his heartfelt acceptance speech for Best Screenplay, thanked the Jerusalem Film Fund before anyone else, because it was the first fund to support his film, which took nearly eight years to bring to the screen. This film has won prizes all over the world, and is being remade in the US.
Best Actor went to Neveh Tzur, who played a troubled young man in Marco Carmel’s Noble Savage.
Best Supporting Actress went to Shira Haas for her role in Noble Savage. Haas, who is just 23, was also nominated in the Best Actress category for Broken Mirrors.
Doval’e Glickman, Haas’ co-star from the television show, Shtisel, won Best Supporting Actor for his performance as the father of a young adult with special needs in Jacob Goldwasser’s Laces.
This year’s Ophir Awards played out over the backdrop of Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev’s attempt to get a new Cinema Law passed, one which would require, among other provisions, that 70% of those deciding which movies receive funding be employees of the Ministry of Culture and not of the film funds. Two years ago, she stopped the Ophir ceremony for a tirade against the movie industry’s lack of diversity. Last year, she was disinvited from the ceremony following her criticism of the film that eventually won Best Picture, Foxtrot, which she said she had not seen, and this year she was not invited.
But President Reuven Rivlin  sang a different tune, when, early into the ceremony, a video message from him was played. The president praised the movie industry, calling the ceremony “a holiday for Israeli cinema,” and noting that “Israeli cinema is blossoming more from year to year.”
The president extended a blessing to the Israeli film industry, saying he hoped that audiences “would continue to enjoy the fruits of their creativity for years to come,” a clear dig at Regev’s threat to micromanage the movie industry.
Many of the presenters and winners obviously had Regev and her attacks in mind when they spoke, and a large number referred to the new Nationality Law as well. The title cards for the ceremony before the breaks were in Arabic as well as Hebrew, even though presenting information in Arabic is no longer required.
The first two presenters, ultra-Orthodox director Rama Burshtein and Arab director Maysaloun Hamoud, embodied the diversity of the Israeli film industry. Hamoud made a particularly strong statement of the centrality of her Arabic mother tongue in Israel and Israeli cinema.
Many had thought transgender actress Stav Strashko would win for Flawless, which would have been a first. Nevertheless, Ilan Peled, the actor/comedian/singer who often performs in drag, hosted the show in a dress for most of the night.
One irony this year as the film industry proclaimed its inclusiveness is that only Israeli citizens can be nominated for an Ophir, no matter how central their role on a film is. This is the reason that the Ethiopian cast and crew of Ethiopian-born director Alamork Davidian’s film, Fig Tree, were not nominated for awards, although Daniel Miller, its Israeli cinematographer, won an Ophir. I misstated in a previous article that this showed that the Academy had not enjoyed the Ethiopians’ work, but that is not necessarily true. This may also explain why German actor Tim Kalkhof, the star of The Cakemaker, did not receive a nomination for Best Actor.
While it may sound logical that only Israeli citizens can get nominated for Ophirs, now that the industry has become so international, it seems provincial and exclusionary.
Normally, The Cakemaker would go on to be Israel’s official selection for consideration for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, but these nominees must be primarily in a language other than English. Much of the dialogue in The Cakemaker is in English (although some is in Hebrew and German) so it could run into problems, as the Ophir winner The Band’s Visit did in 2007.
After The Band’s Visit was disqualified because of its percentage of English dialogue, the Academy chose Beaufort as its official choice instead, which went on to receive an Oscar nomination, so stay tuned.