'Sweet Mud,' an Israeli narrative of a boy coping with his mother's mental illness on a kibbutz in the 1970s, won the jury prize for world cinema Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival.
"This is unprecedented," said 'Sweet Mud' director Dror Shaul in a phone conversation from the United States. "The Israeli filmmaking industry bombarded Sundance as Simon Dotan's 'Hothouse' won the documentary award and we won the international competition.
"We were not prepared for this, it basically hit us, but we are very happy particularly because Israeli filmmakers are now sitting in Cineart in Rotterdam and trying to come up with co-productions. Every such win boosts Israeli filmmaking," he added.
New light on old kibbutz life
'Sweet Mud' portrays kibbutz life in the 70s, questioning the socialist idealism of the kibbutz movement and breaking many taboos.
It tells the story of Dvir, a captivating 12-year-old boy (played by talented 14-year old Tomer Steinhof) growing up on a kibbutz. The story spans four seasons from the summer of '74 to the spring of '75.
It is the year of Dvir's Bar Mitzvah and he and his classmates are forced to undergo a series of "initiation" tests before reaching manhood to prove their allegiance to the kibbutz movement.
The autobiographical storyline draws on the writer/director Shaul's memories of growing up on a kibbutz alongside his mentally unstable and widowed mother. In the movie, Dvir's enchanting mother Miri, who teeters on the edge of insanity, is impressively portrayed by first-time actress Ronit Yudkevitch.