Israeli film ‘Foxtrot’ shortlisted for foreign language Oscar

Samuel Maoz movie about loss of son in army has drawn critical acclaim, as well as condemnation from culture minister; final nominees to be announced next month

Lior Ashkenazi (foreground), stars as a grieving father in Samuel Maoz's award-winning film 'Foxtrot' (Courtesy 'Foxtrot')
Lior Ashkenazi (foreground), stars as a grieving father in Samuel Maoz's award-winning film 'Foxtrot' (Courtesy 'Foxtrot')

Director Samuel Maoz’s controversial and critically acclaimed feature film ‘Foxtrot’ has been named to the shortlist for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Thursday.

The Israeli tale of parental grief, trauma and loss is one of nine films named by the academy to the shortlist, which will be whittled down to five finalists by January 23, when all nominees are announced. Ninety-two films had been considered, the Academy said.

“Foxtrot” won the Silver Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival and swept the Ophir awards, Israel’s version of the Oscars, with eight wins, earning it a place as Israel’s entry for the Foreign Language award.

Yonatan Shiray, now an active combat soldier, in his foxtrotting scene in the award-winning film ‘Foxtrot’ (Courtesy ‘Foxtrot’)

Told in a distinctive three-act structure, Maoz built each section different in style and tone. In the first part, middle class couple Michael and Dafna Feldman are informed that their soldier son, Yonatan, has fallen in the line of duty. The second act is based at an unnamed, remote Israeli roadblock and the last section returns to the family’s Tel Aviv apartment.

The film provoked a storm of controversy earlier this year when Culture Minster Miri Regev, who boasted she had not seen the film, condemned it as a work of treachery, calling for the state to end funding for films that can be used as “a weapon of propaganda for our enemies.”

Director Samuel Maoz receives the Silver Lion – Grand Jury Prize for his movie “Foxtrot” during the award ceremony of the 74th Venice Film Festival on September 9, 2017 at Venice Lido. (AFP PHOTO / Tiziana FABI)

“Foxtrot” will be up against Lebanon’s “The Insult,” about Lebanon’s civil war. French-Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri was briefly detained this year in Lebanon, after arriving in the country to promote the film, for having shot 2013’s ” The Attack,” in Israel. He was eventually cleared by a military tribunal.

Lebanese-French director Ziad Douieri (2nd L) poses with actors Adel Karam (2nd R), Diamand Bou Abboud (R) and award-winning Palestinian actor Kamal el-Basha (L) at the pre-screening of “The Insult” in Beirut on September 12, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / ANWAR AMRO)

“The Insult,” set in the post-war era, centers around a legal dispute between Christian nationalist Tony, played by Lebanese actor and comedian Adel Karam, and Palestinian refugee Yasser, played by Basha.

Israel’s last nominee to make it to the Oscars was Joseph Cedar’s 2011 film “Footnote,” which lost to Iranian film “A Separation.” An Israeli film has not made the shortlist since.

AFP contributed to this report.


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