Attending Israel’s upscale events is always an interesting venture. Because, compared to the U.S., they’re pretty scaled down and lacking pretense. Dress codes don’t rule and most anyone can get away with whatever their personal interpretation of gearing up or down might be. That includes nominees, as demonstrated here by Best Actor winner Sasha Avshalom Agronov for his role in The Loners. Dig the hat.
Also glaringly absent at these affairs are hulking bodyguards (unless government ministers are present). Sure, there’s security at the entrance but once inside, the press mingles with celebs and it’s a sort of everyone hangs out with everyone free-for-all at the bar and buffet kinda thing.
Which is why I was able to walk straight up to Ajami Producer Mosh Danon, congratulate him on taking best film and wish him luck at the Hollywood Oscars. I grabbed this shot of the film’s Israeli director Yaron Shani as he was being interviewed for radio. His Arab co-director Scandar Copti was, unfortunately, in Europe.
I also shook Lebanon film director Samuel Maoz’s hand and congratulated him on his Venice win. I felt truly sorry that his film didn’t clinch the top seed. Because imho, the movie based on his personal experience as a soldier during the 1982 Israel incursion into Lebanon, would have been a serious Academy Awards contender for best foreign film. I’m not sure about Ajami, a story about the crime ridden mixed Arab-Israeli neighborhood of the same name in southern Tel Aviv. Yes, it’s a microcosm of the Israel-Arab flashpoint conflict at large but it somehow feels too local.
But then, I’ve seen neither and am basing that rather broad opinion on trailers, discussions with colleagues and the reception for Lebanon thus far in the world arena.
Here’s a clip. A reportedly super intense film, it takes place entirely inside an Israeli tank in Lebanon. Last night the movie nabbed top honors for Best Supporting Actor, Best Soundtrack, Best Cinematography and Best Design.
A few notes about the ceremony: The high point was seeing Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Assi Dayan take to the stage. A legendary Israeli actor and director, he has been plagued by negative press throughout his career for drug abuse, mental instability and domestic violence. But he is talented. And his peers gave him a standing ovation.
Heart wrenching, on the other hand, was witnessing producer Uri Segev’s widow and two young children take to the stage to receive an honorary award in his name. 46-year-old Segev died last year of heart complications during the wrap of Lebanon. The audience, on their feet again, applauded warmly as his wife and children stood at the podium. And there was neery a dry eye in the house as his wife thanked the film academy with broken voice and his 8-year-old daugher sobbed quietly beside her.
A final note to self: MUST SEE A Matter of Size – a film about a diet club support group that decides to start up their own Sumo Wrestling team. It looks poignant, funny and visually beautiful. And Best Actress recipient Irit Kaplan made a distinct impression upon the uber looks-conscious crowd by advising in her acceptance speech that we all go beyond exteriors and start digging deeper to the core where it really counts.
Lacking pretense, indeed.