Actor who plays key soldier’s role in ‘Foxtrot’ now serves in IDF Givati Brigade
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Sticking to his guns

Actor who plays key soldier’s role in ‘Foxtrot’ now serves in IDF Givati Brigade

Yonatan Shiray, whose character is central to atrocities scene reviled by Culture Minister Regev, could have joined army's theater troupe, but felt obligation to join combat unit

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Yonatan Shiray in 'Foxtrot' (YouTube / Official Trailer / screenshot)
Yonatan Shiray in 'Foxtrot' (YouTube / Official Trailer / screenshot)

The young actor who plays the soldier son in the award-winning and controversial movie “Foxtrot,” and whose character is central to a controversial scene in which a group of soldiers commit a deadly war crime, is now a real-life combat serviceman.

Director Samuel Maoz’s film, which swept the Israeli Ophir awards as well as winning a top prize at the recent Venice Film Festival, has been panned by Culture Minister Miri Regev for its criticism of Israel, particularly for the scene that portrays IDF soldiers committing atrocities. (Regev, who has not seen the movie, castigated the film as “self-flagellation and cooperation with the anti-Israel narrative.” A former IDF spokeswoman, she said of the atrocities scene, “The IDF in which I served for more than 25 years had no scenes like this. This is slander, pure and simple.)

Yonatan Shiray, 20, whose character is at the heart of the movie and of that scene, is now an active combat soldier serving in the Givati Brigade.

Culture Minister Miri Regev arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on June 11, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90)

Shiray was cast and filmed the movie before he was inducted into the army, said the IDF spokesperson’s unit (although they confirmed that an active soldier could accept acting work while serving). The army has not offered an official reaction to the film.

In an interview with Channel 2 prior to the Venice festival, Shiray spoke about his decision to join a combat unit.

He could have chosen the IDF theater unit, avoiding the obvious dangers and stresses of a combat unit, Shiray said.

“My friends from home were like, ‘What, why are you going combat, it sucks,'” said Shiray to Channel 2. “But if everyone says they won’t serve, then who will? I would have had the feeling that I could give and didn’t.”

Several “Foxtrot” cast members have hit back publicly at Regev’s harsh comments about the film. Shiray, too, defended its portrayal of the Israeli military.

“A film doesn’t only have to show what’s good about the country,” he said. “If we limit ourselves that way, then art misses out on something.”

The Times of Israel hosted two exclusive screenings of “Foxtrot,”
with English subtitles, on Sunday, October 15 at Lev Smadar, Jerusalem, and Monday, October 16 at Lev 1, Tel Aviv. There was a Q&A with Samuel Maoz after each screening.

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