On Sunday February 26, Israeli director Joseph Cedar was in LA. His new film Footnote (winner of the Best Screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2011 & nine Ophir Awards from the Israel Film Academy in September 2011) was a candidate for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Kol Yisrael watched with pride that night. He didn't win, but he was there. Mazel Tov, Joe!
But this was not Joe's first Oscar Night. Joe was at the Oscars in 2008 when his third film, Beaufort, was also a BFLF candidate. Four films --> two Oscar nominations! Astonishing! But I want to remind you of something: Joe Cedar was not his own country's choice for 2008...
Israeli protocol dictates that the winner of the annual Ophir Award for "Best Film" (presented every September by the Israel Film Academy) automatically becomes Israel's Oscar candidate. Now Cedar received the Ophir in 2000 for his first film Time of Favor and he received the Ophir in 2004 for his second film Campfire, but in 2007, the Ophir went to The Band's Visit.
Then Ophir criteria clashed with Oscar criteria* and The Band's Visit was deemed ineligible, which pushed Beaufort into the top position. And that's why Joe Cedar was in LA in 2008 representing Israel, even though he was not, in fact, the director of the film selected by the Israel Film Academy.
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction!
My own opinion is that The Band's Visit is a very slight little crowd-pleaser, whereas Beaufort is one of the best films made anywhere in the world in the immediate post-9/11 decade. Here's our FF2 haiku for The Band's Visit, and here are my reviews of Beaufort (I wrote two--one for FF2 and one for Jewish Film World).
I mention all this now because Footnote is a profound and thrilling film, and I believe that, in making it, Joe Cedar was driven (at least in part) to claim his rightful place on that BFLF Oscar List with no if, ands, or buts. Bluntly put: It is no mere accident that Footnote's dramatic arc begins and ends with awards ceremonies!
Footnote (which has already opened in NYC) will open in Metro Chicago (at the Cinemark in Evanston, the Landmark Century in Lincoln Park, and the Landmark Renaissance in Highland Park) this Friday (3/16/12) and hopefully many other theatres around the USA as well. See it on a big screen! You'll be glad you did!
Here are my reviews of Time of Favor and Campfire.
3/16/12 UPDATE: My full review of Footnote is now live on the JUF website 🙂
Photo: "Uriel" (Lior Ashkenazi on far right) watches as colleagues congratulate his father "Eliezer" (Shlomo Bar-Aba seated in center) after he wins the Israel Prize.
* Tzivi's (ahem) Footnote: The Band's Visit was technically ineligible in the BFLF category because over half of the film is in English. When the Egyptian characters converse, they converse in Arabic, and when the Israeli characters converse, they converse in Hebrew. But when cross-cultural conversations occur, the characters use the only language they all share... and so it goes...
As I wrote way back in '08: "This [Oscar kerfuffle] may be a blessing in disguise. Many highly-praised filmmakers tried to say something meaningful about “the war on terrorism” in 2007, but they all failed. In the Valley of Elah (directed by Paul Haggis), The Kingdom (directed by Peter Berg), Lions for Lambs (directed by Robert Redford), Redacted (directed by Brian de Palma), Rendition (directed by Gavin Hood), not one was a critical or commercial success. The only film that I felt captured the moment was Beaufort, and I believe Beaufort will endure long after this year’s Oscar controversy has faded from memory."