Asia, Ophir, Oscar

‘Asia’ headed to Oscars after winning Best Picture at Israel’s Ophir Awards

Alena Yiv and Unorthodox’s Shira Haas also pick up best actress and best supporting actress awards for their mother-daughter portrayal in Ruthy Pribar’s film

Shira Haas (L) and Alena Yiv star in the movie "Asia." (Daniella Nowitz)
Shira Haas (L) and Alena Yiv star in the movie "Asia." (Daniella Nowitz)

Ruthy Pribar’s “Asia” was named this year’s best picture at the Israeli Ofir Awards, which were announced on Friday, sending the drama film for consideration for a Best International Feature nomination at the Oscars in April.

The movie tells the story of a young mother Asia (Alena Yiv) and her teenage daughter Vika (Shira Haas), Russian immigrants in Israel. The two live alone together but have a distant relationship, with Asia more comfortable interacting with her daughter as a friend and Vika craving more independence as she comes of age. Asia also focuses heavily on her job as a nurse while Vika hangs with a skater crowd that leads her to rebel against her mother.

When Vika’s health suddenly deteriorates, Asia is forced to step up to become the mother whom her daughter desperately needs. The illness ends up bringing the two together.

The choice for Best Picture was announced in a special episode of Culture Agent on the Kan public broadcaster that replaced the lavish ceremony normaly held every year in Tel Aviv, which was not possible this year due to the coronavirus.

Ruthy Pribar (Screen capture/YouTube)

The Best Picture winner at the Ophir Awards, the country’s most prestigious cinema awards ceremony, is traditionally sent on to compete as Israel’s entry for Best International Feature at the Oscars.

Yiv won best actress for her portrayal of Asia and Haas was awarded best supporting actress for her role as Vika. Haas also won this year’s Tribeca Film Festival Award for Best International Actress for her performance in Asia.

“Her face is a never-ending landscape in which even the tiniest expression is heartbreaking; she’s an incredibly honest and present actress who brings depth to everything she does,” the Tribeca jury wrote in its comments on Haas.

Haas gained international acclaim earlier this year for her role in the critically praised Netflix series, “Unorthodox.” She was nominated for Best Lead Actress in a Limited Series for her performance, becoming the first Israeli to be nominated for an acting Primetime Emmy Award. She has been well known in Israel since 2013 for her role of Ruchami Weiss in the drama series Shtisel, which is also on Netflix.

Shira Haas in Netflix’s ‘Unorthodox” (Anika Molnar/Netflix)

Among the other films that won big at the Ophir Awards was Nir Bergman’s “Here We Are,” which tells the story of a single father about to place his autistic son in a home for special needs adults and their unexpected journey taken at the last minute.

The film was written by Dana Idisis, known for her award-winning and groundbreaking work in co-creating TV show “On the Spectrum,” about three young adults with autism, sharing an apartment in Tel Aviv.

The Best Documentary Over 60 Minutes was awarded to “Advocate,” a film about an Israeli attorney who has defended Palestinian terror suspects.

The movie was shortlisted for the Academy Awards in the documentary feature category last year.

While “Advocate” has received international critical acclaim and has won top prizes at the Krakow, Hong Kong, and Thessaloniki festivals, along with Tel Aviv’s documentary film festival Docaviv, it caused deep political controversy in its home country and was lashed by then-culture minister Miri Regev, as well as right-wing groups and organizations representing families of terror victims.

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