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Israeli Film Giant Assaf Dayan Dies at 68

Israeli screen legend Assaf “Assi” Dayan died on Thursday at his home in Tel Aviv, bringing the curtain down on a career that for many served as a microcosm of the state of Israel itself. He was 68.

The youngest son of Israel’s eye-patch wearing military hero Moshe Dayan, the younger Dayan is considered one of the primary pioneers of the Israeli cinematic industry and the creator of some of its most iconic films. He shot to fame in “He Walked the Fields,” an idealistic love story about both romance and country that hit theaters in 1967, the same year that Israel faced its nation-defining Six-Day War.

Later years would see Dayan (pictured at center, sitting) playing roles reflecting all corners of the political spectrum, from a treasonous prisoner in the Academy Award-nominated 1984 “Beyond the Walls” to a discharged commander in 1991’s “Real Time.”

He was an undisputed mega-star in his home country, and despite his public misgivings with his father’s legacy and the future of his oft-aligned nation, Israeli audiences never fell out of love with him.

Later in life, he moved into both writing and directing, and in the 1990s made a trilogy of films exploring the dark, creeping underbelly of modern Israeli society.

His later years were mired in public controversies, including failed relationships, health struggles and substance abuse.

There were professional triumphs, though, as well: He received a lifetime achievement award at the Jerusalem Film Festival in 1998 and in the last decade secured some of his best-loved roles. He starred as a therapist in the award-winning “B’Tipul,” which was remade in the U.S. by HBO as “In Treatment,” and he also starred in 2008’s “Jellyfish,” co-directed by husband-and-wife team Etgar Keret, the beloved master of absurd fiction, and his niece Shira Geffen.

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