The Israeli Academy of Film and Television on Saturday doled out its annual Ophir Awards, and the big winner was “Bethlehem,” a thriller that exposes some of the raw nerves of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The film swept six Ophirs – also known as the Israeli Oscars – including Best Film, and will likely represent Israel in the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 2013 Academy Awards.
The film’s co-writers and -directors, Yuval Adler and Ali Waked — a visual artist and a former journalist, respectively – won in the Best Director and Best Screenplay categories. “Bethlehem” also got the nod for Best Casting and Best Editing, as well as a Best Supporting Actor prize for Tsahi Halevi, who plays a Shin Bet officer in the film.
Previous Israeli productions that have won Best Film awards at the Ophirs have gone on to represent Israel in the Academy Awards. Israeli movies have yet to win an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category, although the past six years have seen a surge in the number of Israeli submissions to be nominated for an award, from “Beaufort” in 2006, to 2011′s “Footnote.”
“Bethlehem” was described by Variety as an “impressive directorial debut,” while the Hollywood Reporter said that it showcased a “confident new talent in Middle Eastern cinema.” It focuses on the fraught relationship between Halevi’s character and a young Palestinian informer.
“Bethlehem” won the Venice Days prize at the Venice Film Festival earlier this month, as well as picking up a best Israeli feature film award at the Haifa Film Festival last week.
Other films to take home Ophir Awards on Saturday included Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado’s horror flick “Big Bad Wolves,” which took home five prizes, and “The Gatekeepers” — a compilation of interviews with Israel’s former intelligence chiefs — which won in the Best Documentary Film category.