Astounding news from LA: On Tuesday morning, Israel received its third consecutive nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film category (BFLF). This means that for the third time in three years, Israeli filmmakers will be part of the mix when the Oscars are awarded on Sunday, March 7.
Between 1964 and 1985, Israel received six BFLF nominations for “Sallah,” “The Policeman,” “The House on Chelouche Street,” “I Love You Rosa,” “Operation Thunderbolt,” and “Beyond the Walls.” But then 23 years passed before the next nomination, Joe Cedar’s “Beaufort” in 2008. Last year, Ari Folman’s “Waltz with Bashir” also joined the list. And now, “Ajami.”
“Ajami” opens locally on Feb. 19 at the Music Box Theatre in Andersonville. I will see it Feb. 11 at a critics screening and will post a sneak peak the following week. Meanwhile, here are some comments from those already in the know.
Hannah Brown (movie critic for The Jerusalem Post):
“The Israeli film industry has become so strong in recent years that this third consecutive BFLF nomination actually did not come as a surprise. But this nomination for ‘Ajami’ is certainly welcome news. The making of the film is a great story. The co-directors are Jewish and Christian Israelis, young, first-time filmmakers, who spent years making their dream come true. ‘Ajami’ faces tough competition in this category, but whether it wins or not, co-directors Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani have earned their trip to Los Angeles."
Suha Araf (Screenwriter):
“‘Ajami’ is an amazing film—very strong. The Palestinian co-director, Scandar Copti, is a friend of mine, and I’m so happy for him. All the actors in this film are non-actors (the real people from the neighborhood), and they play themselves. All the stories are the stories of these people, coming from the inside of this poor neighborhood, from this pain and suffering.
Why a third consecutive nomination for Israel? Because there is fashion in cinema, and now Israel is in fashion. Maybe it is because we are living in conflict that we are doing our real stories. This is the way, in the last years, that we have become great story tellers.”
Shmuel Beru (Director):
“I saw ‘Ajami” and I really loved it. I hope they have success on Oscar Day.”
Gary Palmucci (General Manager, Kino):
“The first of Kino’s Israeli releases, ‘Late Summer Blues,’ was over 20 years ago in 1988. It was very popular in Israel, but at that time Israeli films couldn’t seem to cross over at all; you couldn’t give them away. But when a country is in ferment and in crisis and a lot of stuff is going on, great art comes out of that. We’ve seen that happen in international cinemas around the world, and that may be at least in part what this is all about.”