'Atash-Thirst,' 'Or' split prize; next year's award to increase

JERUSALEM — Palestinian director Tawfik Abu Wael’s “Atash-Thirst” and Israeli Keren Yedaya’s “Or” shared the $35,000 Wolgin Award for best film at the Jerusalem Film Festival, which closed Saturday.

Helmer Abu Wael hails from the Arab town of Umm al Fahm just inside Israel. His Arab-lingo drama about a family oppressed by a tyrannical father, “Atash-Thirst” was produced by Israeli Avi Kleinberger and features an Arab cast and Israeli crew.

Pic won a Special Jury Prize at the Biennale of Arab Cinema in Paris earlier this month. Abu Wael, 28, will attend the Cannes Residence program in Paris from October.

French-Israeli co-prod “Or,” a dark tragedy involving a Tel Aviv prostitute and her teenage daughter, was feted at Cannes with this year’s Camera d’Or for first feature.

In a separate development, Philadelphia businessman Jack Wolgin announced he would increase the current $50,000 of prize money for the Wolgin Awards for Israeli Cinema by 40% next year.

Screenplay trophy went to director-writer Danny Verete for his tragicomic “Metallic Blues — Travelogue,” an Israel-Canada-Germany co-prod about an Israeli car salesman trying to sell a luxury limo in Germany.

Actor prize was taken by Moshe Ivgy, for his perfs in both that film and competition pic “Campfire.” Distaff trophy went to Ronit Elkabetz for “Or.”

Anat Zuria’s “Sentenced to Marriage,” following the struggle of three women to obtain divorces from their Orthodox husbands, won the doc prize. Dany Rosenberg’s “The Red Toy,” about a lost toy that passes from a Palestinian boy to an ultra-Orthodox child, clinched best short.

Winners of the Wim Van Leer In the Spirit of Freedom of Award were Simone Bitton’s “Wall,” Mercedes Moncada Rodriguez’s “The Passion of Maria Elena” and Vinko Bresan’s “Witnesses.”

In the Jewish Experience section, best film was Sam Garbarski’s “The Rasheveski Tango,” and Adi Japhet Fuchs’ “Appelfeld’s Table,” about Israeli writer Aharon Appelfeld, won the documentary prize.

Running July 8-17, the Jerusalem fest screened 250 films, including 50 premieres, to 65,000 viewers.

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