Ajami has collected five Ophirs (Israel’s version of the Oscar) for best film, best director, best script, best editing and best music (Rabih Boukhari) at the annual awards ceremony of the Israeli Film Academy, which took place last night (September 26) in Haifa.
It has also been announced that the film will represent Israel at the Academy Awards after being selected as it entry for the foreign language film category. The film premiered in Directors’ Fortnight at this year’s Cannes, where it won a Special Mention by the Golden Camera Jury.
The film was co-written, co-directed and co-edited by a Jew, Yaron Shani, and an Arab, Skander Kopti, who worked together for ten months training a cast of complete unknowns for their roles, before starting to shoot. Produced by Mosh Danon, the film is handled worldwide by The Match Factory with Don Krim’s Kino handling US distribution.
Venice’s Golden Lion winner Lebanon, sold worldwide by Celluloid Dreams and to be distributed in US by Sony Pictures Classics, came in second, with awards for cinematography (Giora Bejach), art direction (Ariel Roshko) and soundtrack (David Liss and Alex Claude).
Additional awards went to Sasha Agronov, best actor in the as yet unreleased The Lonely Ones and Irit Kaplan, best actress in the current box office hit A Matter of Size.
The late Uri Sabbag, who launched the Lebanon project and took it through a long and complicated production up to its point of completion but passed away at the age of 46, was singled out for a special posthumous award and Assi Dayan, one of the most prolific actors/writers/directors in Israel, took home a Life Achievement Ophir of his own.
The best documentary, The Shashuka System featuring Rubik Rosenthal, Israel’s answer to Michael Moore, unveiled the secret ways and means which made the Offer brothers one of the most successful financial dynasties in the country. None of the legal attempts made by the Offers to block the film ultimately succeeded, and it was screened first at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and then on the First TV Channel.
One discordant note was sounded several times through the evening, first by veteran producer Marek Rozenbaum, the head of the Producers Association, and later by Culture Minister Limor Livnat. Both underlined that the unprecedented international success of the Israeli film industry is not sufficiently recognized at home. Though it draws healthy audiences into the theatres and it has recently secured an agreement with the Treasury for annual subventions of NIS 67 million ($17.m), it still lacks the local investors willing to put in the rest of the money needed to realise production.. Demanding that something be done, Rozenbaum pointed out that though the law instructs the country’s six broadcasters to invest in local productions, only two of them presently comply, the result being, he says, “that ARTE, a French broadcaster, is putting more money into Israeli films than our own broadcasters do”.