Israeli filmmaker Tom Nesher’s debut feature wins prize at Tribeca Film Festival

Director of ‘Come Closer,’ based on her own family’s tragedy, thanks festival directors for standing up to anti-Israel pressure and choosing to show the film

Israeli filmmaker Tom Nesher is seen speaking at the Tribeca Film Festival, in this screenshot from a post to Instagram. (Screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Israeli filmmaker Tom Nesher is seen speaking at the Tribeca Film Festival, in this screenshot from a post to Instagram. (Screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

“Come Closer,” the first feature film by Israeli filmmaker Tom Nesher, won first prize in the Tribeca Film Festival’s “Viewpoints” competition on Thursday, with the award honoring “boundary-pushing, rule-breaking new voices in independent film.”

“When choosing a winner, our decision was unanimous; this film pulled us all in from just a few frames, and we felt that we were in skillful hands, as it is fiercely executed and superbly performed,” said the judges, presenting the award.

Nesher, the daughter of acclaimed Israeli filmmaker Avi Nesher, celebrated the win: “I don’t have the words to express the excitement, joy and enormous pride that I feel right now,” she said, according to Haaretz.

She noted the significance of an Israeli director taking home the prize: “Thank you to my talented cast, to the production team, and to festival directors Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro, who stood up to the pressure and chose an Israeli film.”

“Come Closer,” a Hebrew film set in Israel, tells the story of Eden, a young woman who deeply cares for her younger brother, believing there are no boundaries or secrets between them. When he’s killed in a car accident, Eden discovers his secret girlfriend Maya and embarks on a journey to discover more about her, leading the two women to an obsessive bond.

The film was inspired by the Nesher family’s real-world tragedy when Tom’s brother Ari was killed in a hit-and-run in 2018.

Ari Nesher (left) and his sister, Tom Nesher. Ari, the son of director Avi Nesher, died at the age of 17 on September 27, 2018 after being struck by a car in a hit-and-run accident several days earlier (Courtesy Roi Bar)

“I really felt, coping with my own grief, that I need this lifeline, I need a way that I can keep my brother alive, and that’s also the thing that is driving my main character,” said Nesher earlier this month in an interview with media critic Austin Belzer.

When the film was chosen for the festival, Nesher, as well as the film’s producers, hailed its inclusion at a time when Israeli artists are increasingly boycotted internationally, and at a time when New York City has been the site of widespread anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrations amid the ongoing war.

“Tribeca was created by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal as a response to the terror and fear that was felt in New York and the US to the terror attacks of September 11,” said Liron Edery, a producer of “Come Closer.”

“The very fact of the inclusion of an Israeli film in this prestigious festival, precisely in the current period, resonates that message again,” he said.

“More than anything, I’m waiting for the day when the film meets the Israeli audience,” Nesher said at the time.

Also at the Tribeca Film Festival this year were “Sabbath Queen,” a documentary about Israeli-American rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie; “Treasure,” a film about a Holocaust survivor who returns to Poland with his daughter; “Between the Temples,” a film about a cantor and his adult bat mitzvah student; and “Bad Shabbos,” about an interfaith couple.

Jessica Steinberg contributed to this report.

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