From ‘Mank’ to an Israeli short film: A Jewish guide to the 2021 Oscars

Sacha Baron Cohen nominated for two very different roles; Israeli and Palestinian short movies competing in the same category

Sacha Baron Cohen earned an Emmy nomination for playing Abbie Hoffman in 'The Trial of the Chicago 7.' (Nico Tavernise/Netflix via JTA)
Sacha Baron Cohen earned an Emmy nomination for playing Abbie Hoffman in 'The Trial of the Chicago 7.' (Nico Tavernise/Netflix via JTA)

JTA — “Mank,” the black-and-white Netflix movie about Jewish screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, leads the slate of Academy Award nominations in a year when most Americans viewed movies via streaming services.

“Mank” earned 10 Oscar nods, including for best picture, making up nearly half of Netflix’s total nominations. The company also drew six nominations for “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”

Meanwhile, Amazon’s nominations were bolstered by Regina King’s movie “One Night in Miami” and “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” — one of two movies that earned creator Sacha Baron Cohen an Oscar nomination.

Here’s what you need to know about the notable Jewish nominees. The awards will be presented in a ceremony on April 25.

“Mank” dominates

Gary Oldman on the set of Mank. (Nikolai Loveikis/Netflix via JTA)

Starring Gary Oldman as Herman Mankiewicz, “Mank” was tapped for best picture among its nominations. Oldman and co-star Amanda Seyfried, as well as director David Fincher, are in the running. There are also nominations for original score, cinematography, costume design, and more.

“Mank” focuses on the story behind Mankiewicz writing the classic movie “Citizen Kane,” and trying to get credit for his work following its success.

Sacha Baron Cohen is recognized for two very different movies

Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman in ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7.’ (Niko Tavernise/Netflix via JTA)

Cohen was nominated for his portrayal of the Jewish activist Abbie Hoffman in “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and for best-adapted screenplay for the Borat sequel, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” Maria Bakalova, the Bulgarian actress who plays Borat’s daughter in the latter, scored a nod for best-supporting actress.

“Trial of the Chicago 7” garnered six nominations, including for best original screenplay by the Jewish writer-director Aaron Sorkin.

“Crip Camp” is recognized

The Netflix documentary, nominated for best documentary feature, is the story of teenagers with disabilities who attend Camp Jened in upstate New York during the summer of 1971. The movie, executive produced by President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, follows a group of campers and counselors who become activists for the disability rights movement, including the Jewish activist Judy Heumann.

Following the nominations, Heumann tweeted, “Make this year the first of MANY where the Oscars is accessible to all disabled people.”

Israeli and Palestinian short movie score nominations

The Israeli short movie “White Eye” is up for best live-action short movie. It is the story of Omer (Daniel Gad), a Mizrahi man whose bicycle is stolen. He spots his bike outside a factory and calls the police on an African migrant worker, Yunes (Dawit Tekelaeb), setting off a chain of events out of Omer’s control.

“The story actually happened to me,” Tomer Shushan, the writer, and director of the movie, told Jewish Insider. “I found myself fighting to get my bike back, and I almost made a man go to jail, to be deported from Israel. I just sat down like one hour after the situation and I wrote the script in 40 minutes.”

Competing against “White Eye” in the same category is the Palestinian short movie “The Present,” which is directed by the Palestinian-British filmmaker Farah Nabulsi. It tells the tale of Yusuf (Saleh Bakri) and his daughter, Yasmine (Mariam Kanj), who set out to buy his wife a gift. They navigate Israeli soldiers and military checkpoints in their frustrating attempt.

“You can portray checkpoints with all the facts and figures – a woman can give birth at a checkpoint; people can’t get to work or whatever. But you go stand at a checkpoint, it’s a very different perception to what the facts and figures provide. It was this life-changing trip, it had such an impact on me and I came back and battled with it for two years,” Nabulsi explained of her inspiration to make the movie.

The first scene in “The Present” is filmed at a Bethlehem checkpoint.

Diane Warren gets her 12th best original song nomination

The Jewish songwriter Diane Warren was nominated for “Io sì (Seen)” for the Sophia Loren Holocaust movie, “The Life Ahead.” She shares the nomination with singer Laura Pausini; it was the movie’s only nomination.

Warren has been nominated a dozen times over three decades, but has failed to take home a statuette. This could be the year: She won a Golden Globe in February.

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