Two short weeks ago, when I wrote my article about the 2014 Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema for the October issue of the JUF News, I made a prediction. I said: "My bet is that by the time you read this, Zero Motivation will have won the Ophir Award for Best Film, which will automatically make it Israel's candidate for Best Foreign Language Film in the next international awards cycle."
Readers, I was wrong. Zero Motivation did indeed win many Ophir Awards on Sept. 21 including Best Director and Best Screenplay (Talya Lavie) and Best Actress (Dana Ivgy), but the Ophir Award for Best Picture (aka "the Israeli Oscar") went to Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem.
Gett is the third film in a trilogy written and directed by Ronit Elkabetz in collaboration with her brother Shlomi Elkabetz. Elkabetz also stars in the lead role of "Viviane Amsalem," a woman from a large Moroccan-Israeli family who has been separated from her husband for years but is unable to obtain a "Gett" (a Jewish writ of divorce).
Perhaps you saw Shivah (the second film in the trilogy) when I did? I named it one of my "Highly Recommended Features" in CFIC '09. And after I saw Shivah, I went online to find a copy of the first film To Take a Wife. Both DVDs are now available on Amazon and both are excellent.
Ronit Elkabetz is probably best known to American audiences for her roles in Late Marriage (2001) and The Band's Visit (2007). She is also well-known in France for her roles in films like The Girl on the Train (2009). In this year's Ophir contest for Best Actress, Elkabetz went head-to-head with Dana Ivgy, the star of Zero Motivation. Ironically, Ivgy also won in 2004 when she played Elkabetz's daughter in Or Mon Tresor (a film which brought writer/director Keren Yedaya multiple awards at Cannes and elsewhere).
Although I am surprised by this outcome, I am by no means disappointed. In the words of Hannah Brown of the Jerusalem Post: "It was the year of the woman at the Ophir Awards… as two films by and about the specific problems of Israeli women - and the universal issues of women everywhere - captured the lion's share of the major awards."
Unfortunately Gett is not part of this year's CFIC line-up. But distribution rights have already been acquired by Chicago's hometown Indie heroes Music Box Films, so it will likely be available soon.
Perhaps the CFIC committee will decide to show the whole trilogy-To Take a Wife, Shivah, and Gett-in CFIC '15. If so, I hope they invite me to lead the Q&A!
Here is my list of CFIC '14 Top Picks. More information will be available in print (in the October issue of the JUF News) and online (in the Arts & Entertainment section). Full reviews of each of these films-plus additional CFIC '14 related features-will be available on my Blog Second City Tzivi.
- New Filmmakers: Talya Lavie (Zero Motivation)
- New Stars: Keren Berger (A Place in Heaven and Cupcakes)
- Best Feature Film = TIE = A Place in Heaven and Zero Motivation
- Best Actor: Alon Abuttul in A Place in Heaven
- Best Actress: Anat Waxman in Cupcakes
- Best Supporting Actor: Patrick Stewart in Hunting Elephants
- Best Supporting Actress: Rotem Zussman-Cohen in A Place in Heaven
- Best Documentary Film over 60 Minutes: Above and Beyond
- Best Documentary Film under 60 Minutes: The Women Pioneers
Order your tickets now. CFIC '14 is going to be a great film festival!
Top Photo: Ronit Elkabetz in Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (Courtesy of Music Box Films)
Bottom Photo: Dana Ivgy in Zero Motivation (Courtesy of CFIC)