And this year’s Academy Awards foreign film nominees for are... not Lebanon. Instead, the South Mediterranean will go to the Oscars next month with Israel’s award-winning Footnote by US-born director Joseph Cedar.
Footnote, a film about the rivalry between a father and son who are Talmudic scholars in Jerusalem, won the Israeli Academy of Film’s Ophir Award this September, and won the Best Screenplay Award at the Cannes Film Festival last year. The act of philology was an inspiration for the film, the director told the New York Times.
Joseph Cedar was born in New York in 1968 and immigrated to Israel with his family at the age of six, according to film website Film Bug. After studying philosophy and theatre history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where Footnote is set, he graduated from the New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
The feature is Cedar’s second film to be nominated for a foreign language Academy Award after his film Beaufort in 2007, and is the tenth nomination for Israel in this category though none has so far ever won. Previous nominees include the animation Waltz with Bashir by Ari Folman and Ajami by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shami in 2008 and 2009.
Like all other countries in the South Mediterranean, no Israeli film has ever won an Oscar.
Next February, Footnote will be competing against Bullhead by Michael R. Roskam from Belgium, In Darkness by Agnieszka Holland from Poland, and Monsieur Lazhar by Philippe Falardeau from Canada. Its main rival will be A Separation by Asghar Farhadi from Iran, already the winner of the Golden Globe for best foreign language film, and also nominated for an Oscar for best original screenplay.
Last year was the first in memory that no film dealing with the Holocaust or the Nazi era was entered in any Oscars category, according to Jewish news service JTA. But this year, In Darkness, inspired by a true story of persecuted Jews during the Second World War, shows that the subject has not yet been exhausted.
Of the other nominees, Monsieur Lazhar tells the story of an Algerian immigrant who takes over an elementary class in Canada when their teacher dies. Quebec filmmaker Philippe Falardeau told the Canadian press that he screamed and leapt into his producer's arms when he learned his film had nabbed an Oscar nomination.
Nadine Labaki’s And Now Where Do We Go? has joined the ranks of Harry Potter, Shame’s Michael Fassbender, Leonardo di Caprio, and Ryan Gosling in not being nominated this year, but the Lebanese film continues to garner an international following.
“@reelgrrls Definitely Nadine Labaki's WHERE DO WE GO NOW? is missing, should've been nom'd for Oscar (Best For. Lang. Film) @NadineLabaki,” on Tuesday night tweeted Her Film, a global project to build audiences for films by, for, and about women.