Both sides of the camera

Oscar hopeful ‘Cinema Sabaya’ picked up for US, Canada release

Film about group of Arab and Jewish women swept local Ophir Awards, now to be seen in North American theaters

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

The cast of 'Cinema Sabaya,' the big winner in Israel's Ophir Awards on September 18, 2022 (Courtesy Cinema Sabaya)
The cast of 'Cinema Sabaya,' the big winner in Israel's Ophir Awards on September 18, 2022 (Courtesy Cinema Sabaya)

New York-based film distribution company Kino Lorber has picked up North American distribution rights to “Cinema Sabaya,” the award-winning drama about a group of Arab and Israeli women taking part in a documentary filmmaking workshop.

The film, the first full-length feature from Israeli director Orit Fouks Rotem, is Israel’s official contender for the 2023 Academy Awards in the best international feature category, after sweeping the local Ophir Awards in September.

Starring Dana Ivgy as the filmmaker running the workshop, “Cinema Sabaya” offers a portrait of eight women, ranging from a pair of older and younger Muslim mothers to an Israeli who lives on a boat, an attorney and a suburban mother. The women film their homes and lives as part of the workshop, learning about themselves and one another in the process.

“Cinema Sabaya” premiered at the Jerusalem International Film Festival in July, where it won the best first feature and audience awards. The movie also swept the Ophir Awards, Israel’s equivalent of the Oscars, winning Best Picture, Best Director for Rotem and Best Supporting Actress for Joanna Said, who plays a conflicted Muslim mother of six who dreams of getting a driver’s license.

The film also stars Marlene Bajali, Amal Murkus, Ruth Landau, Yulia Tagil, Orit Samuel, Aseel Farhat, Liora Levi and Khawlah Hag-Debsy.

“At its core, ‘Cinema Sabaya’ is about the power of cinema: to change people’s lives, to give women a voice and to break down cultural barriers,” said Kino Lorber senior vice president Wendy Lidell.

Kino Lorber is planning a theatrical release for the movie in early 2023. Memento International is handling international sales for the film.

The independent film distribution company specializes in art house films, such as documentaries, classic films from earlier periods in the history of cinema, and world cinema.

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