TEL AVIV — Israeli helmer Joseph Cedar is in the Oscar race once again.
On Thursday night, Cedar’s “Footnote” (Ha’erat shulayim) swept the Ophir Awards, the Israeli Film Academy’s annual competition, taking home nine prizes including those for director, picture and screenplay.
The picture winner automatically becomes the country’s submission for a foreign film Oscar nomination.
In 2007, Eran Kolirin’s “The Band Visit” took home the top Ophir, but was disqualified as an Oscar bid because it did not meet the AMPAS criterion of having at least 50% of its dialogue in a language other than English. Cedar’s war pic “Beaufort” was submitted in its place and went on to earn Israel’s first Oscar nod in 23 years.
“Footnote,” Cedar’s follow-up to that film, is the story of deep-seated family rivalry within the scholarly world of esoteric Hebrew scriptures.
It earned the screenplay prize as well as a U.S. distribution deal from Sony Pictures at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
“It’s a film about the need for recognition,” Cedar told Variety in May. “I think everyone has that need, and in this film the need goes so deep it becomes a survival story. Life and death.”
Cedar said that, when making the film, he had no idea if it would follow in the footsteps of “Beaufort.”
“We’ve all done two years of intensive, obsessive, meticulous, endless work and you never really know if anyone will ever appreciate it. But you still put in everything you have into every single second and frame and squeak in the film,” he said.
To date, Israel has received nine Oscar nods for best foreign film, but has never won.
The deadline for all countries to send in their submissions is Oct. 1. The 84th Academy Awards will be held Feb. 26 at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.