Israel Out, Palestine In for Oscar Race

'Bethlehem' and 'Omar' Make First Cut for Foreign Flick

By JTA

Published December 22, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

‘Bethlehem’ Trailer from The Playlist on Vimeo.

Israel is out and Palestine is still in the Oscar race, following the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announcement of nine semi-finalists in the best foreign-language film category.

Israel’s entry “Bethlehem,” directed by Yuval Adler and winner of Best Film at the 2013 Venice Film Festival, did not make the cut, and the Palestinian film “Omar” by director Hany Abu-Assad was one of the semifinalists.

Both films reflect the intensity of the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Omar director Abu-Assad won critical praise for two previous films, “Paradise Now” and “Rana’s Wedding,” in which the Palestinian protagonists did not hide their antagonism toward Israel but the Israeli foes were nevertheless portrayed as recognizable human beings, rather than soulless sadists.

Abu-Assad largely foregoes such balance in “Omar,” in which the title character and the beautiful Nadja pine for each other on opposite side of the Separation Wall, in Israeli terminology, or the Isolation Wall in the Palestinian dictionary.

In the process of jumping the wall and participating in the shooting of an Israeli soldier, Omar, played by Adam Bakri, is caught by Israeli undercover agents, who first torture him and then try to turn him into a collaborator.

Distrusted by the Israelis and reviled as a traitor by his own people, Omar is driven to one last desperate act.

In “Bethlehem,” director Adler and co-writer, Palestinian journalist Ali Waked, draw no moral judgments in the struggle between Shin Bet – the Israeli internal security agency, against Hamas and the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade.

This year, a record 76 countries, from Afghanistan to Venezuela, entered their best films. As usual, the choice of nominees by the unpredictable selection committee stunned many professional prognosticators.

Most surprising was the omission of top favorite “The Past” by Iranian director Ashgar Farhadi, who won the Academy Award two years ago with “A Separation.” Similarly slighted was the heavily promoted “Wadja,” the first ever submission by Saudi Arabia.

Abu-Assad’s earlier movie, “Paradise Now,” ignited a fierce debate on how to label the sponsoring entity, with the Academy vacillating between “Palestinian Authority,” “Palestinian Territories” and finally “Palestine,” which is how such films are now designatged.

Israeli filmmakers’ record of 10 nominations place Israel among the 10 most nominated countries, though the Israeli film industry has yet to bring home its first Academy Award.

The shortlist of five finalists in the foreign-language and other categories will be announced on Jan. 16. The final winners will hoist their trophies on Oscar Sunday, March 2, in Hollywood.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.