TEL AVIV — An Israeli film that stirred controversy in the Jewish state is shortlisted for an Oscar, Israeli media outlets reported on Friday.
Foxtrot, by director Shmuel Maoz (pictured), tells the story of a family losing a son, a soldier in the IDF.
The film has already won accolades in Israel and abroad. It received a Silver Lion award at this year’s Venice Film Festival and previously won eight Ophir Awards, Israel’s national film prize. The film’s Ophir wins catapulted it to consideration by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The film contains one scene taking at a place at a checkpoint that is a source of the controversy surrounding the picture. The scene, displaying Israeli soldiers behaving violently towards Palestinians, caused Israel’s Minister of Culture Miri Regev to announce that the picture was anti-Israeli and called for a boycott of the movie.
Most Israeli critics praised the movie, though some agreed with Regev’s assessment that the film harms Israel’s international reputation.
Foxtrot will be competing with The Insult, a Lebanese movie about that country’s civil war. According to the Times of Israel, the French-Lebanese director of the movie, Ziad Doueiri, was briefly held this year when he came to Lebanon to promote the film. The reason for his arrest was that he had visited Israel in 2013 when he filmed his movie The Attack in the country. He was cleared by a military tribunal.
The last Israeli nominee to the Oscars was Joseph Cedar’s 2011 film Footnote, which lost to the Iranian film A Separation.
Maoz’s previous film Lebanon, about Israeli soldiers posted in the enemy country, was highly praised and won several awards. The film takes place almost entirely inside an IDF army tank.
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‘Antebellum’ has a ‘Get Out’ vibe, but doesn’t live up to its twist
“Antebellum” is built around a provocative twist, and it’s a good one — as well as one that definite..
“Antebellum” is built around a provocative twist, and it’s a good one — as well as one that definitely shouldn’t be spoiled even a little. Once that revelation is absorbed, however, the movie becomes less distinctive and inspired, reflecting an attempt to tap into the zeitgeist that made “Get Out” a breakthrough, without the same ability to pay off the premise.
Originally destined for a theatrical run, the movie hits digital platforms trumpeting a “Get Out” pedigree in its marketing campaign, since there’s an overlap among the producing teams.
More directly, the film marks the directing debut of Gerard Bush + Christopher Renz, who have championed social-justice issues through their advertising work. The opening script features a quote from author William Faulkner, whose intent will eventually become clearer: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
If that sounds like a timely means of drawing a line from the horrors of slavery to the racism of today, you’ve come to the right place.
The story begins on a plantation, where the brutal overseers carry out grisly punishments against those tilling the fields. A few have just tried to escape, led by Veronica (Janelle Monae), and they pay a heavy price for their resistance, which does nothing to curb her defiance.
Also written by Bush + Renz, the script take too long before revealing what makes “Antebellum” different, but the middle portion — a “The Twilight Zone”-like phase when it’s hard to be sure exactly what’s going on — is actually the film’s strongest. (Even the trailer arguably gives away too much, so the less one knows, the better.)
The final stretch, by contrast, veers into more familiar thriller territory, and feels especially rushed toward the end, leaving behind a host of nagging, unanswered questions. That provides food for thought, but it’s also what separates the movie from something like “Get Out,” which deftly fleshed out its horror underpinnings.
Although the filmmakers (in a taped message) expressed disappointment that the movie wasn’t making its debut in theaters, in a strange way, the on-demand format somewhat works in its favor. In the press notes, Bush says the goal was “to force the audience to look at the real-life horror of racism through the lens of film horror. We’re landing in the middle of the very conversations that we hoped ‘Antebellum’ would spur.”
“Antebellum” should add to that discussion, so mission accomplished on that level. Monae is also quite good in her first leading film role (she did previously star in the series “Homecoming’s” second season), but otherwise, most of the characters remain underdeveloped.