Lebanon Receives First Oscar Nomination While Israeli Entry Falls Short

Producer of Israeli film denies that controversy influenced decision

One of the most acclaimed Israeli movies of the year, Foxtrot, missed out on a coveted Oscar nomination, but another Mideast production made the cut. Lebanon’s The Insult was nominated in the foreign language film category.  The nomination is the first for a Lebanese film since the country began submitting movies in 1978, according to Reuters.

“I’m very proud, very happy and ready to win because it’s very important, of course, for any movie, any actor,” Kamel El-Basha, a Palestinian actor who plays the lead character in The Insult, told The Media Line.

The other regional nomination is Syrian director Feras Fayyad’s Last Man In Aleppo, which got a nod in the Documentary (Feature) category.

Both Foxtrot and The Insult were the subject of controversy in Israel and Lebanon, respectively.

The former, which won the Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize at the Venice International Film Festival last year, chronicles a couple’s grief after their son dies while serving in the Israel Defense Forces. In one particularly jarring scene, an Israeli commander is shown covering up the killing of Palestinians by his soldiers. The film was widely criticized, including by Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev—a former IDF spokesperson—who said the movie sullied the army’s reputation.

“It’s hard for us to predict what would happen [with the Oscars] and to understand the inner [workings of the nominating] process, but it is what it is and we’re proud of the film nonetheless,” Eitan Mansuri, Foxtrot’s producer, told The Media Line, adding that he does not think Regev’s comments negatively impacted on the film’s chances.

‘The Insult’ drew even greater condemnations due to the fact that director Ziad Doueiri partially filmed The Attack in Tel Aviv in 2012. Many in the West Bank and Lebanon called for The Insult to be boycotted, and Doureiri was even briefly detained by Lebanese authorities when he arrived in the country for the movie’s premiere.

The film, which takes place in present-day Beirut, tells the story of a violent incident and subsequent legal battle between a Christian-Lebanese man and a Palestinian refugee. The tensions echo those between Christians and Palestinian refugees during the Lebanese Civil War from 1975-1990, when many Palestinians were indiscriminately targeted in what some describe as massacres.

El-Basha, who won best actor for his role in The Insult at the Venice awards last year, said that while some may attribute the film’s nomination to the controversy, he believes the film’s international acclaim speaks for itself and deserved to be picked out of the 92 submissions for the award.

Over the past decade several Israeli and Arab films have been nominated for best foreign film at the Oscars, including Jordan’s ‘Theeb’ in 2015; the Palestinian Authority’s ‘Omar’ in 2013; Israel’s ‘Footnote’ in 2011 and the winner that year, Iran’s ‘The Separation.’

(Dina Berliner is a Student Intern in The Media Line’s Press and Policy Student Program)

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