Controversial Israeli film ‘Foxtrot’ makes Oscar shortlist


(JTA) —  “Foxtrot,” a film that Israel’s culture minister said attempts to “undermine” her country and its soldiers’ morality, has been named to the Academy Awards shortlist for best foreign language film.

Director Samuel Maoz’s movie made the list of nine films announced Thursday by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 92 submissions. Five finalists will be selected on Jan. 23, when all the Oscar-nominated films are announced.

Starring Lior Ashkenazi and Sarah Adler, “Foxtrot” is a superb and wrenching film about parental grief at the death of a soldier’s son, the joys and stresses of marriage, the boredom of army life, and how Israel’s occupation humiliates the occupied and hardens the occupiers.

In a phone interview with JTA, Maoz described his film as “the dance of a man with his fate.” He said “there are many variations to this dance, but they end up at the same starting point.”

The film features a scene in which Israeli soldiers kill a family in their car and then cover up the act.

Israel’s culture minister, Miri Regev, has blasted the film.

“It is inconceivable,” Regev declared publicly, “that movies which shame the reputation of the Israel Defense Forces … and that are supported (financially) by the state …  are selected to showcase Israel cinema abroad.”

In the interview, Maoz did not directly address Regev’s criticism, but declared, “When my brothers are dying, I have the right to make such a movie.”

Maoz and Askenazi have defended the film as an “allegorical tale” about what they consider Israeli occupation, adding it does not seriously claim the Israeli army covers up civilians’ deaths.

It won the Silver Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival and swept the Ophir Awards, Israel’s version of the Oscars, with eight wins, earning it a place as Israel’s entry for the Academy Awards in the foreign language category.

Israel’s last nominee to make it to the Oscars was Joseph Cedar’s 2011 film “Footnote,” which lost to “A Separation,” the Iranian entry. That year was the last time an Israeli film made the shortlist, AFP reported.

Among its competition for the Oscar will be Lebanon’s “The Insult,” about the civil war in that country. French-Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri was briefly detained this year in Lebanon after arriving there to promote the film for having shot 2013’s ” The Attack” in Israel. He was eventually cleared by a military tribunal.

The German movie “In the Fade,” which also made the cut, addresses the rise of neo-Nazism in present-day Germany dramatized through the murder by a neo-Nazi couple of a German woman, her Kurdish husband and their small son.

Director Fatih Akin, a German-born citizen of Turkish descent, attributed the growing neo-Nazi sentiment mainly to hostility to the large number of refugees, mainly from Muslim countries, admitted into Germany.

“We are seeing the rise of a new racism in Germany based on the fear that the existing German identity will be altered by the refugees,” Akin said in a phone interview.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, director of Global Social Action for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said hate groups everywhere “have perfected the delivery system” of their anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish messages through the use of social and other media.”

In contrast to nearly every other year since the end of World War II, none of the 92 entries dealt with the Holocaust or the Hitler era. This may well indicate that to a new generation, the horrors of the 1930s and ’40s are ancient history.

Conversely, there have been a few years during the past decade when producers and directors stayed away from this era, only to return to it in a subsequent year.

The Academy Awards will be handed out on March 4 in Los Angeles.

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