The Ophir Awards are Israel's version of the Oscars, where the country hands out top honors to its best films of the year. The ceremony was last Thursday, with some standouts including:
Sand Storm, which won Best Film of the Year. This automatically makes it Israel's submission for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards in February. Some may be surprised to see Israel's submission contains entirely Arabic dialogue. The win for this drama, centering on two Bedouin women, marks the first time a film with no Hebrew has earned the top prize, though it also won five other awards. These include Best Director and Best Supporting Actress for Ruba Blal-Asfor, who plays a woman coping with her husband’s second marriage and her daughter’s rebellion.
Elsewhere, the Ophir for Best Screenplay went to Rama Burshtein, an ultra-Orthodox woman, for Through the Wall, a comedy about marriage in the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) world. Best Actor went to Moris Cohen award for his performance as a club bouncer drawn into a life of crime in Meni Yaesh’s Avinu, a film about the working class excluded from the film industry. Best Documentary went to Ido Haar’s Presenting Princess Shaw, about Israeli musician, Kutiman, who showcases the work of a lonely African-American singer/songwriter in New Orleans.
The night was not without controversy, however. Israel's Minister of Culture stormed out of the proceedings after a Palestinian rapper quoted from the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish, a beloved Palestinian cultural figure, but who is perceived by some as opposed to the existance of a Jewish state.
The shortlist for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, which will feature nine out of the 80-plus films submitted for consideration from countries all over the world, will be released on January 17.
See more about the awards here.