Two days after hitting cinema screens across Israel
and after winning the feature film competition at the Haifa International Film Festival, Director Yuval Adler's "Bethlehem" took home the Ophir Award for Best Picture on behalf of the Israeli Academy of Film and Television on Saturday evening.
The thriller, which takes place between Jerusalem
on the backdrop of a wave of terror attacks and the Shin Bet's
battle to thwart them, will represent Israel in February at the Oscars, where it will compete for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
"Bethlehem" was co-written by Adler and former Ynet reporter Ali Waked. The film focuses on Sanfur, a teenage Palestinian boy from Bethlehem whose brother is the commander of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in the city, who becomes a Shin Bet informant under the guidance and support of his Israeli operator, Razi. A suicide bombing in Jerusalem and the hunt for its masterminds threaten the close relationship between Razi and Sanfur – and their lives.
Director Yuval Adler. Oscar race coming up (Photos: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv)
Adler's debut film won a total of six prizes (out of 12 nominations) for Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Film Editing (Ron Omer), Best Casting (Liron Zohar and Naama Zaltzman) and Best Actor in a Supporting Role, which was given to Tsahi Halevi for his portrayal of Razi.
Shhadi Maryee, 19, who plays Sanfur, lost the Best Actor in a Leading Role Award to veteran actor Makram Khoury who won for "Magic Men." Adler comforted him on stage as he received the Best Director Award: "Shhadi, it's a good thing you didn't win. You're too young."
'Bethlehem' cast members on stage
"It's very exciting," Tsahi Halevi told Ynet. "It's surprising, just like the entire process I went through with 'Bethlehem,' starting with the casting, the rehearsals, the shooting period, up to the audience's amazing reactions and the film industry's support. It was a refreshing and challenging experience for me, and so is the film – surprising, refreshing, humane, and an experienced engraved deeply in one's memory."
Asked about his future plans, Halevi said: "Just like we did until now, taking one day at a time, one step at a time. The important thing is the way, and what leads us is the dreams."
Makram Khoury wins Best Actor Award
Sivan Levy receives Best Actress Award
Gavri Banai, Shaike Levi accept Lifetime Achievement Award
The Shin Bet is also at the focus of the film which won the Best Documentary Feature Award – Dror Moreh's "The Gatekeepers,"
which was nominated for an Oscar this year and was screened Saturday night at the US Congress, according to producer Philippa Kowarsky.
The most exciting moment during the ceremony was when young Sivan Levy won the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for her portrayal of a girl suffering from sexual abuse in "Six Acts." From the stage she called for the return and compassion and love to the Israeli society, which she said is drenched in aggression and exploitation.
The Lifetime Achievement Award was given to the Hagashash Hahiver comedy group. The prize was received by the group's two living members, Shaike Levi and Gavri Banai. Third member Yisrael "Poli" Poliakov
died in 2007.