German-Israeli film “The Cakemaker” won best picture at Israel’s Ophir Awards on Thursday evening, an accolade that automatically makes it the country’s submission to the foreign-language film category at the Oscars.
The film was written and directed by Ofir Raul Graizer, an Israeli who lives in Berlin. Released last year, “The Cakemaker” focuses on a young German baker named Thomas who falls in love with Oren, a married Israeli man visiting Berlin. After Oren dies in a car crash, Thomas travels to Jerusalem to find closure – and answers – concealing his identity and insinuating himself into the life of Oren’s widow, Anat, by working as a cake-maker in her cafe.
The film first premiered at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival last year, where it won the Ecumenical Jury prize.
On Thursday, “The Cakemaker” picked up five other Ophir Awards, Israel’s version of the Oscars, including best screenplay, best director and best actress. It beat out one of the most buzzed-about films of the year, “Flawless,” which had the most nominations – 12 – but took home just three prizes.
“Flawless” follows three high school girls from Jerusalem who travel to Kiev to donate a kidney in exchange for plastic surgery. But they don’t know that Eden, the new girl in their group, is transgender and seeks in Kiev the reassignment surgery that her father refuses to pay for at home. Eden is portrayed in the film by transgender actress Stav Strashko, who made history by being nominated for best actress by the Israeli academy. She lost out on the award to Sarah Adler in “The Cakemaker.”
For the second year running, firebrand Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev was not invited to the Ophir ceremony. Two years ago, the conservative Regev walked out of the ceremony in anger when a song written by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish was performed. She was dis-invited last year, and instead gave a speech at the same time as the awards ceremony in which she criticized the eventual best picture winner, “Foxtrot,” a movie she accused of being unpatriotic in its unflattering depiction of the Israeli military. “Foxtrot” was shortlisted for the foreign-language Oscar but was not nominated in the end.
Mosh Danon, chairman of the Israel Film Academy, gave an impassioned speech during the ceremony defending the country’s film industry. He did not mention Regev by name, but responded to her accusations that the industry is an exclusive club that is out of touch with the average Israeli.
Several of the night’s winners also made political comments in their acceptance speeches, criticizing Regev and the current Israeli government.
“We have an amazing industry here,” said best supporting actor winner Dov Glickman, “and we won’t let it be destroyed.”