Oscar buzz revs up for ‘Beaufort

Excitement in Israel about "Beaufort", the Oscar-nominated Israeli film, is building up.   (www.bufor.co.il)

Excitement in Israel about “Beaufort”, the Oscar-nominated Israeli film, is building up. (www.bufor.co.il)

LOS ANGELES (JTA) – Joseph Cedar, the Orthodox director of the Oscar-nominated Israeli film “Beaufort,” has resolved a thorny Shabbat dilemma.

Traditionally, on the day before the awards ceremony, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences holds a high-profile public symposium for the five finalists vying for the Oscar for best foreign-language film. This year the symposium is slated for Saturday morning Feb. 23 – posing a major problem for Cedar.

“I had a long talk with my rabbi in Israel,” said Cedar, 39, who is currently in Los Angeles with his family. “He decided that I could attend as long as I didn’t use a microphone and walked to the event at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater.”

Cedar figures he can cover the two-mile distance in about an hour, an almost unheard of feat for pedestrian-phobic Angelenos, but no big deal for Israelis – even for an Israeli who was born in New York, but whose parents made aliyah when he was 5 years old.

Meanwhile, the excitement in Israel about its film industry’s first Oscar nomination since 1984 is building up.

Gilad Millo, the Israeli consul for public affairs in Los Angeles., said that more than a dozen of the main Israel media outlets will send television and print reporters to cover the Oscar ceremonies. In addition, some 30 cast members and financial backers of “Beaufort” were slated to arrive in Los Angeles on Feb. 20.

The Oscar-party season for “Beaufort” kicked off last week, with a Feb. 12 screening and reception sponsored by the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles and the entertainment division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Topping the parties will be an Oscar night bash for Israeli and Hollywood filmmakers in one of the city’s poshest private homes.

Cedar, who is not given to hyperbole, said that he and his family were very happy about the nomination, but his main satisfaction was that the film could now be assured a bigger exposure and longer life.

He described his reactions in a recent phone call, after spending the day on the obligatory Disneyland tour with his wife, journalist Vered Kelner, 6-year old daughter, Amelia, and 3-year old son, Levi.

A paratrooper during the first Lebanon War, Cedar has infused “Beaufort” with gritty realism in depicting that conflict, not in the glory of victory but in its indecisive, exhausted end.

The movie is based on the novel “Im Yesh Gan Eden” (If There is a Paradise) by Ron Leshem, who co-wrote the screenplay with Cedar. It is a wrenching war movie depicting the final action of the first Lebanon War, when a small Israeli unit evacuated the medieval Beaufort fortress.

Cedar’s first two films, “Time of Favor” and “Campfire,” were both voted Israel’s top films and Oscar entries in 2001 and 2004, respectively.

Millo termed the Oscar nomination a “landmark event” and an auspicious beginning of Israel’s 60th anniversary celebrations.

Taken together with the successes of other current Israelis entries at prestigious European film festivals, optimists are foreseeing a breakthrough for the country’s film industry, akin to the golden ages of French and Italian films in the 1950s and 1960s.

So far, no Israeli has ever won an Academy Award, but Millo believes this is about to change.

Asked what kind of celebration he planned if “Beaufort’s” title is pulled out of the envelope on Feb. 24, Millo answered, “It’s not a question of if, but of when.”

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