The war at home

'Beaufort' cast criticized in Israel

Joseph Cedar just can’t get away from politics.

The helmer’s drama “Beaufort” explores the Israeli army’s withdrawal from the south of Lebanon in 2000. Cedar picked up the best director gong at the Berlin Film Fest for his efforts, but he’s been dogged by criticism in his native Israel.

At issue is the fact that some of his cast didn’t complete their mandatory military service.

“It’s turned into a pretty big debate,” says Cedar. “There have been editorials in the papers from both sides. It’s an extremely flammable issue.”

Israel’s army radio station — the most popular in the country — even aired interviews of the parents of Israeli soldiers killed during Israel’s 18-year occupation, slamming Cedar’s use of actors who hadn’t completed their army service.

The brouhaha, however, didn’t stop Israel’s military top brass from turning out for the film’s Feb. 20 preem. There wasn’t even space for prime minister Ehud Olmert.

“I got a call from the prime minister telling me how proud he was of the victory at Berlin, but his next question was to ask why he hadn’t been invited to the premiere,” says Cedar. “(But) there would have been too many bodyguards to put in one theater.”

Cedar now plans to hold a private screening for Olmert.

Pic preems March 8 across Israel. Distrib United King Films is opening “Beaufort” on 36 prints, an indication of how timely the topic of Lebanese war is in the country.

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