Eran Kolirin’s Let It Be Morning wins big at the Ophir Awards

Kolirin won the awards for Best Director and Best Screenplay, Alex Bakri for Best Actor in the lead role, Juna Suleiman for Best Actress and Best Supporting actor.

 Photo from Let It Be Morning (photo credit: SHAI GOLDMAN)
Photo from Let It Be Morning
(photo credit: SHAI GOLDMAN)

The winner of the Best Picture Award at the Ophir Awards, the prizes of the Israeli Film and Television Academy, which were given out in a ceremony on Tuesday night, was Eran Kolirin’s Let It Be Morning

The movie will now go on to be Israel’s official submission for consideration for one of five Best International Feature Oscar nominations (in a category formerly known as Best Foreign Language Film). Every country can submit one film and it is usually the winner of the Best Picture at each country’s national awards ceremony. 

Kolirin also won the awards for Best Director and Best Screenplay. The movie tells the story of an Arab living in Jerusalem who goes back to his home village for a wedding and gets trapped there when the IDF seals off the village to search for West Bank residents who are there illegally. It is based on a novel by Sayed Kashua. 

Let It Be Morning also won the awards for Alex Bakri for Best Actor in the lead role, Juna Suleiman for Best Actress in the role of his wife and Best Supporting Actor for Ehab Elias Salami, who plays a cab driver in the village victimized by gangsters. Best Supporting Actress went to Reymonde Amsellem for The House on Fin Street, a movie about a young woman lured into working as a prostitute. 

Eran Kolirin’s 2007 movie, The Band’s Visit, won the Ophir Award for Best Picture and went on to worldwide success, even inspiring a Tony Award-winning Broadway show. However, it was not Israel’s official submission for the Oscar, since it was disqualified because too much of the dialogue was in English. The Academy chose Joseph Cedar’s Beaufort to represent Israel that year and it received an Oscar nomination. 

Gidi Dar’s Legend of Destruction, the story of the destruction of the Second Temple told through a series of paintings, won awards for Best Music, Best Art Design, Best Editing and Best Sound Design. 

Vanessa Lapa’s Speer Goes to Hollywood, a film about the infamous Nazi’s attempt to sell his life story to Hollywood, won Best Documentary Feature. The Accident by Omri Dekel Kadosh won for Best Short Film. Ohad Milstein’s Summer Nights won for Best Documentary Short Film.

This year’s Ophir Awards were seen as a contest between two films, Let It Be Morning and Avi Nesher’s Image of Victory, each of which received 15 nominations, including in all the major categories. Nesher’s film, which tells the story of the Battle of Nitzanim during the War of Independence from both the Jewish and Egyptian perspectives, has drawn a great deal of buzz in previews and the Haifa International Film Festival showed it in a program called, “Ground-Breaking Cinema.” However, except for awards for cinematography for Amit Yasur, Chen Carmi for Best Costumes and Best Makeup, it did not win in any of its categories. The Academy has tended to ignore Nesher’s films, never before even nominating him for Best Director. Some in the industry had hoped that this year, the Academy would recognize his work, particularly since, many feel Image of Victory, with its epic scope, had the best chance of succeeding at the Oscars. 

This year marked the 30th anniversary of the Ophir Awards, named in memory of actor Shaike Ophir, and it was a calmer ceremony than in previous years, particularly those during the tenure of former Culture Minister Miri Regev, who spoke out against movies she disapproved of, while antagonizing the film industry by refusing to actually see the films she criticized. The current Culture Minister, Chili Tropper, attended Tuesday’s ceremony and was warmly received.