Two Israeli films in the running for the Oscars

Say what you want about Israeli filmmakers, you can’t accuse them of doing well or avoiding sensitive topics.

On the contrary, they seem to revel in topics that could upset a large part of their compatriots, including government officials, which would give their Hollywood colleagues pause.

This year, Israeli films are shortlisted for Golden Statuettes in two categories: Best International Entries (in a foreign language) and Best Documentary Film.

The Journal featured Israeli director Maya Sarfaty’s latest film “Love It Was Not” in its October 27 issue. The plot revolves around the still delicate emotional subject of a romance between a Jewish woman imprisoned at Auschwitz and an SS officer working in the administration of the death camp.

For the country’s official entry into the foreign language category, the Israeli Film Academy chose an even more controversial topic, the treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank by the Israeli authorities, told from the Arab perspective.

“Let It Be Morning”, with an all-Palestinian cast, was written and directed by one of Israel’s top Jewish directors, Eran Kolirin, who previously directed the highly successful “The Band’s Visit” which turned out to be into a hit Broadway play.

The film, based on Sayed Kashua’s novel, revolves around two brothers, one a high-tech worker born in Israel and a citizen of Israel, the other a Palestinian residing in a village in the West Bank.

The Israeli brother travels to the West Bank to attend his brother’s wedding. After the festivities, as he prepares to return to his Israeli home and family, he learns that over the next few days, Israeli authorities have locked the West Bank village and blocked the road. leading to his hometown.

The film topped this year’s Ophir Awards, the Israeli equivalent of the Oscars, which also won top honors for Best Director, Screenplay, Actor, Actress and Best Supporting Actors.

At a press screening of the film in Los Angeles at the Pacific Design Center, director Kolirin was joined in a question-and-answer session by David N. Myers, UCLA professor of Jewish history and leading activist for the peace, followed by separate interviews with the Jewish Journal.

Kolirin explained the title of the film and the novel on which it is based as representing “a kind of desire which will shed new light on this unbearable situation and the hope of an awakening from this darkness”.

In the past, some Israeli politicians have criticized the country’s filmmakers for films that show unflattering aspects of the country abroad, to which Kolirin replied that “our films may represent a different kind of Israel, but you cannot say THIS is Israel and THAT is Israel.

“Our film is about a very human subject, so I think people who liked ‘The Band’s Visit’ will come to like ‘Let It Be Morning’. “-Eran Kolirin

“Our film is about a very human subject, so I think people who liked ‘The Band’s Visit’ will come to like ‘Let It Be Morning’.”

Myers summed up the film as “a very powerful articulation in the lives of Palestinians living under Israeli law.” He also noted Kolirin’s observation that in directing the film the director had in mind the works of novelist Franz Kafka, the chronicler of modern man’s alienation and anxiety.

Either way, Myers added, “Art is meant to challenge and subvert.”

The Israeli film competes with entries from 92 other countries and was unlikely to have been helped by the absence of Palestinian actors from the awards ceremony in Israel and the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Their complaint was that the film should have been presented at the American Academy Awards and the Cannes Film Festival as a “Palestinian” rather than an “Israeli” film.

Considering the film’s entirely Palestinian localization and distribution, they may be right, although ironically the making of the film was heavily subsidized by the Israel Film Fund, controlled by a branch of the Israeli government.

Responding to a question, director Kolirin said the Israel Fund contributed $ 500,000 towards the overall cost of the film of $ 1,500,000.

The other entry from an Israeli filmmaker, “Love It Was Not” by Maya Safaty, faces even stiffer competition in the Feature Documentary category, which has 238 entries.

The shortlists of 15 Academy nominees for each category will be released on February 9 next year, and the 94th Academy Awards, complete with the award winners’ moving acceptance speeches, will be held on March 27 – if the pandemic does so. allows – and will be released worldwide.

“Let It Be Morning” will screen at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood from December 8-14, with tickets ranging from $ 12 to $ 15. Tickets can be purchased in person at the box office or online at:

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