Israel’s Ophir Awards (the Oscar equivalent) ceremony takes place every year around Rosh-Hashanah (this year’s New Year’s Day takes place on September 9th) – which means the race for the awards has unofficially commenced. The films qualifying for this year were produced, and not necessarily distributed in the last year are currently receiving special screenings for Academy members – here’s how I see the race so far:
The Israeli Film industry proved to be highly effective when it comes to dramas, but other genres were left almost untouched – Danny Lerner‘s Kirot fits the action thriller bill with Bond girl Olga Kurylenko (see above), and winner of the Israeli version of “American Idol” winner Ninet Tayeb team up in a story of two women who strike up a friendship that will change both their lives. The film’s strong suits come in the supporting male characters and cinematography, but problems with the editing and the score make this long shot.
Helmer Michal Bat Adam might be not the most popular director in the industry, but this year’s Maya, about an actress preparing for a film role by spending time in psychiatric hospital, has the advantage of having unknown Liron Ben Chelouche in the lead. The actress certainly deserves a nomination, and perhaps maybe a win as she truly delves into the character she plays.
First time filmmaker Niv Kleiner can count on the performance of Shmuel Vilozny for possible award attention. A film with a safe ending, Bena tells the story of a social worker, whose main work consists of tracking down disturbed people and hospitalizing them. He himself has a mentally distraught son, and being a widower, he takes care of him by himself. One of the people hospitalized by him has a girl from Thailand (named Bena) working for him, and when he is put in an institution, Bena is left to her own devices in a foreign country.
Two months ago I wrote about Eitan Tzur‘s X-ray Burst – and now, after having seen it, I think that it’s your average film that will receive some noms but won’t necessarily win. There’s a wonderful scene around the 20 minute mark which involves the main character and his wife’s lover. Both men know what’s at stake, without mentioning it. This scene shows a great deal of intelligence, and wonderful acting – if only the whole movie borrowed the tone of this scene we’d have an award frontrunner. The static shots of the city of Haifa do very little to elevate a script that is uneven. The main character’s mother, played by 80 year old veteran Orna Porat, demonstrates the problem: as long as she serves as the comic relief, she’s great, but her part in the story consists of moving things dramatically behind the scenes – and Tzur has difficulty working this characteristic in.
Assaf Tajer is a musician trying his luck as a film director – and his first outcome is…odd. Andante seems more like an “art” film, that might do well on the international film fest circuit, but local audiences might struggle with the film’s concepts: it involves a dream factory, the last man to dream who is dying, and a young woman who is supposed to take his place. The dreams are being turned into movies, to entertain those who ceased to dream. It’s a beautifully shot film, filled with abstract noises and superb sound editing, but its’ incoherence and the bleak view of life makes it a tough sell beyond nominations in the art department.
With a Michael Moore styled, crowd pleasing doc, Doron Tzabari – an established filmmaker in both fiction and non-fiction form teamed up with Ori Inbar on Revolution 101 which tackles the corruption and the intervention of high political figures in Channel 1, the National Israeli TV channel, that is not sponsored by commercials, but by a tax paid by every citizen. The doc has generated positive responses, and may very well receive a few nominations.
The beautifully shot and edited Infiltration from Dover Kosashvily might not fair too well, as several critics don’t think this is an effective adaptation of the novel by the same name. The story of a military training of a group of youngsters from different backgrounds in 1950’s Israel misses every dramatic opportunity it gets.
Stay tuned for Part 2.