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Oscar Eyes Tel Aviv Documentary

Film focuses on plight of foreign children

Liel Leibovitz
January 27, 2011

This award season, for the first time in three years, no Israeli movie is nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Film category. That doesn’t mean that the Jewish state won’t be represented in Hollywood’s biggest night: Strangers No More, a documentary about a school in southern Tel Aviv attended by children from 48 different countries is nominated for Best Documentary Short Subject.

Directed by New York-based filmmakers Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon, the 40-minute-long film follows life at the Bialik-Rogozin School, many of whose students are the children of undocumented foreign workers, African refugees, and other outsiders living on the outskirts of Israeli society.

The movie, Simon told the Israeli press when his nomination was announced Tuesday, had universal appeal, but also a particular political message. “I feel that this Academy Award nomination will help in getting the necessary attention so that we could help the children of undocumented workers stay in Israel,” Simon said. “I believe that the task this school is facing deserves global recognition, and that we must allow these children to stay and get their education at Bialik-Rogozin.”

Most in Israel’s cabinet, of course, disagree. Maybe an Oscar would change their minds.

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.