Israeli, Palestinian films to battle it out at the Oscars

Both films are hoping to win the category of “best live-action short film” at the Academy Awards on April 23.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The Palestinian film hoping to beat out its Israeli competitor at the Oscars got a boost when it won in the Best Short Film category at the annual British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards in London on Sunday.

British-Palestinian film director Farah Nabulsi accepted the award for her film, “The Present,” about the trials and tribulations of a father and his young daughter trying to buy an anniversary present of a new refrigerator and stock it with some groceries.

“Absolutely blown away!!! A BAFTA!!!,” Nabulsi tweeted after winning the award.

Done entirely from the Palestinian perspective of having to go through an IDF checkpoint to get to and from a shopping trip, the film review website Indie Film describes it as “heartbreaking without laying it on too thick,” although acknowledging that Nabulsi “employed guerrilla filmmaking tactics.”

The IDF soldiers in the film appear to have been Hebrew-speaking Palestinian actors, as their identities are omitted from the credits. The Israelis are portrayed as brutal and heartless. As with other Palestinian films, the context of why there are checkpoints is entirely left out of the film, with no mention of suicide bombers, weapons smuggling by terrorists at checkpoints, or any other background to the conflict.

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“The Present” will compete against an Israeli short film and three others at the Academy Awards that take place on April 25.

The Israeli short film “White Eye” by director Tomer Shushan deals with an Eritrean migrant in Tel Aviv who is accused by an Israeli of stealing his bicycle.

Shushan’s is the third Israeli film to be nominated in the category. The film “Aya” by Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis was a runner-up in 2014, and in 2018 Israeli director Guy Nattiv won an Oscar for his short film “Skin.”

Other Israeli Oscar winners include Jerusalem-born actress Natalie Portman for her performance in the 2010 film “Black Swan” and sound engineer Niv Adiri, who won the Oscar in 2013 for Best Sound for the movie “Gravity.”

Over the years, Israelis and Israeli films have been nominated 21 times for Oscars.