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Israel and the Oscars

‘The Gatekeepers’ and ‘5 Broken Cameras’ vie for the Academy Award

The Editors
February 22, 2013

The Academy Awards are on Sunday, and in addition to spawning Rachel Shukert’s stunning Best Picture medley, they’ve also sparked an interesting discussion about two films nominated in the Best Documentary category: 5 Broken Cameras and The Gatekeepers.

Over at Jewcy, columnist Jacob Silverman examines what the nomination of the two documentaries, both critical of Israeli policy, means for both the Academy and the Israeli film industry:

Now, both 5 Broken Cameras and The Gatekeepers are nominees for the Academy Award for Best Documentary, to be awarded this Sunday in Los Angeles. That two of the five films nominated in this category are highly critical of Israeli security policies—and the politicians who oversee them—reflects a stark change in Hollywood’s treatment of Israeli cinema. From 1964 through 2006, only six Israeli films were nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, and none won (a film must be first submitted; being a nominee in this category is the equivalent of being a finalist). During this time, Israel had a single documentary nominated for an Academy Award—The 81st Blow, a 1974 film about the oppression of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe.

That began to change in 2007, with the Foreign Language Film nomination of Beaufort, a tale of brotherhood and valor in the last days of Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon. Beaufort was followed by Waltz with Bashir, a dark look at the trauma of IDF veterans who served in Lebanon and their complicity in the Sabra and Shatila massacre. (Due to the Academy’s picayune rules, Waltz with Bashir, while ostensibly an animated documentary, was submitted under the category of Best Foreign Language Film.) In 2009, Ajami, a grim story about forbidden love and clan violence in Jaffa, was also a nominee. Co-directed by a Christian Palestinian and a Jewish Israeli, the film represented a further victory for Israel’s progressive film industry.

Read the rest here.

From the editors of Tablet Magazine.