Photo: Yoel A. Shamir
Yes, it's true, Israel was missing from the Best Foreign Film category in the last Academy Awards but it appears that homegrown creativity is receiving positive reinforcement from other directions.
For example, "Condemned," a short film by Israeli director Oren Shai, 30. The plot of the movie, which has so far been shown online, focuses on a women's prison in the US in 1959 and immediately after its release, the film received exceptional reviews from US critics.
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Film historian David Del Valle raved about the film: "Shai has the talent to follow Tarantino into the rarified company of young directors with an eye for detail and a love of film history which, in Shai’s case, shines like a new penny in the sunlight.”
Well regarded blog IndieWire went one step further and compared 'Condemned' to the much anticipated "Sucker Punch" now showing in theaters throughout the US: "This short film has everything that 'Sucker Punch' was lacking, the tone that Zack Snyder’s disaster desperately needed to succeed. Shai puts a frankness into the dialogue, all between women, which manages to show the brutality of being caged without any excessive violence or desperation."
Shai can't but get excited over the positive feedback "It gives you a great feeling of satisfaction," he said. "For a short film that hasn't even been shown in that many festivals, this exposure is surprising. Usually the movies that get this level of exposure on the net are comedies or films based on graphics, not the type of film that I've made which demands complete viewer attention. I'm very pleased."
Shai is currently living in New York where he has just completed his Master degree and works as a film critic. His university thesis focused on historical research into films about women in prison in 1922-1974.
What is the meaning behind your attraction to this genre?
"That's a good question. There is no personal significance in the chosen subject. It's just one of the things I'm interested in. The more I delved into the genre, the more I fell in love with it. Prison films are a metaphor for other things, like the crushing of the American dream and preventing certain people from fulfilling theirs."
"I'm working hard on writing my first full-length feature film. The movie will be influenced by the dark theater of the 40s and 50s. Until then – you can go watch 'Condemned'."
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