Asia wins the Ophir Award and will represent Israel at the Oscars

Shira Haas wins Best Supporting Actress Ophir Award

Shira Haas and Alena Yiv from Asia. (photo credit: DANIELLA NOWITZ)
Shira Haas and Alena Yiv from Asia.
(photo credit: DANIELLA NOWITZ)
Ruthy Pribar’s Asia won the Ophir Award for Best Picture and will be Israel’s official selection for Best International Feature Oscar.
The winners of the Ophir Awards, the prizes of the Israeli Academy of Film and Television, were announced on a special broadcast of Koby Meidan’s show, Culture Agent, on Kan 11 on Friday afternoon, replacing the usual elaborate live ceremony in front of a large audience because of coronavirus.
Asia won several other top awards, including Best Actress (Alena Yiv), Best Supporting Actress (Shira Haas) and Best Cinematography (Daniella Nowitz). The film had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival last spring, where it won the Best Actress Award for Haas.
Pribar received the Nora Ephron Award, which is given to a filmmaker who embodies the spirit of the late director, screenwriter and essayist and Nowitz won the cinematography award there.
Asia tells the story of a Russian immigrant mother (Yiv) and her complex relationship with her ailing daughter (Haas). The Supporting Actress Ophir win for Haas caps a phenomenal year for the young actress, who was the first Israeli nominated for an acting Emmy, for her role in the Netflix series, Unorthodox.
Haas, who projected the same joy and genuine gratitude that she has after all her many triumphs this year, told Meidan that “I don’t see my career as having two tracks,” one international and one Israeli and that she is happy just to keep working. She is currently shooting the latest season of Shtisel, an Israeli series about an ultra-Orthodox family that has been a big hit on Netflix.
She said might be starring in an international project soon but that it was too soon to announce it.
The producers and director of Asia will also receive a grant from Mifal Hapayis to help promote the film and, if it receives an Oscar nomination, they will be given additional funding. Israel has been nominated 10 times in the International Feature Oscar category (formerly known as the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar) but has never won. The winners in several categories receive cash prizes awarded by the Ministry of Culture and Sport, and the creators of the best short feature film receive a grant from the America Israel Cultural Foundation for the second year in a row.
Another big winner was Nir Bergman’s Here We Are, which is about a father and his autistic son who take a road trip together. Bergman won the Best Director Award, the screenwriter, Dana Idisis, won the Best Screenplay prize, and Shai Avivi and Noam Inber, who play the father and son in the film, respectively, won the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor awards.
The best short film award went to the film, Bracha, directed by Mickey Triest and Aaron Geva, which is set during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The award for Best Documentary Film Over 60 Minutes went to the controversial documentary, Advocate, about lawyer Lea Tsemel, which was directed by Philippe Bellaiche and Rachel Leah Jones. There were protests at screenings from families of terror victims after it won the top prize at the Docaviv festival last year.
The award for Best Documentary Film Up to 60 Minutes was won by the film, Rain in the Eyes by Ron Omar.
Meidan was joined in the broadcast by Moshe Edery, a producer who owns United King Films and the Cinema City chain, director Hagar Ben-Asher and producer Assaf Amir, who is the head of the Israeli Academy of Film and Television. All three spoke of their confidence that the Israeli film industry would bounce back quickly after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
Meidan spoke about how only one of the nominated films, Ram Loevy’s The Dead of Jaffa, had been released before the pandemic began and how audiences were longing for new Israeli films.
“Without Israeli cinema, we’re all just sitting in the dark,” he said.