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Kais Nashif in Tel-Aviv on Fire.(Photo by: PATRICIA IBANEZ)
Israeli films make European short list, Venice festival weathers a storm
Three Israeli films made the shortlist to be nominated for the European Film Academy awards, while the festival is mired in Polanski-Parker controversy
The European Film Academy, a pan-European film body that, like Eurovision, includes Israel, announced the short list this week from which nominees for this year’s European Film Awards will be drawn, and three Israeli films made the cut. The films were selected by a committee made up of the film academy board and several other film professionals.

All three of the Israeli films had their world premieres in Europe. Sameh Zoabi’s Tel Aviv on Fire, the story of a Palestinian who writes for a soap opera in Ramallah, was a huge hit at the Venice International Film Festival last fall, where its lead, Kais Nashif, won the Best Actor Award. Yaron Shani’s Chained, about a desperate policeman, premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and won the top prize at the Jerusalem Film Festival earlier this month. Nadav Lapid’s Synonyms, a look at a troubled Israeli in Paris, won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Festival in February.

All three films are nominated for the multiple Ophir Awards, the awards of the Israel Academy for Film.

Israeli movies have won many important European Film Awards, including the Best Actor Award for Sasson Gabai for The Band’s Visit in 2007.

More than 3,600 members of the European Film Academy will vote for the nominations in the European film, director, actor, actress and screenwriter categories over the next few weeks. The nominations will then be announced on November 9 at the Seville European Film Festival in Spain before the awards ceremony on December 7 in Berlin.

While the European Film Awards are gearing up, the Venice International Film Festival is weathering a crisis, as many have taken to social media to criticize its director for not including enough films by women and for featuring movies by Roman Polanski, a confessed pedophile and rapist, in the main competition, and by Nate Parker, an American director who was accused of rape and was acquitted while he was in college. The Polanski film is An Officer and a Spy, a drama about the Dreyfus Affair. Parker’s film, American Skin, will compete in a festival sidebar program.

The two women directors with films in the main competition are Haifaa al-Mansour of Saudi Arabia with The Perfect Candidate and Australian director Shannon Murphy with Babyteeth.

During the last two years, Venice had only one film directed by a woman in the main competition. By contrast, Cannes had four this year and Berlin had seven.

“1 rapist. 2 women directors in competition at Venice. What else am I missing?” tweeted Women and Hollywood founder Melissa Silverstein, referring to Polanski’s admission of guilt for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old in 1977 in California. He fled to Europe in 1978 before being sentenced and has never returned to the US, even when he won the Best Director Oscar for The Pianist in 2003.

Silverstein also expressed displeasure about the late addition of Parker’s film. “Good job Venice,” she tweeted, adding a reference to a rape accusation against Parker by a woman who later committed suicide.

Fellow African-American director Spike Lee has vowed to attend Venice to support Parker.

Venice festival director Alberto Barbera, who said last year that he would rather quit the festival than give in to pressure for gender quotas, defended his choices. The festival opens on August 28.
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