Foreign Language Oscar: Israel Submits ‘Bethlehem’; Palestine Goes With ‘Omar’

Among the last to do so ahead of the October 1st submission deadline, Israel and Palestine have designated their respective entries for the Foreign Language Oscar race. Israel has selected Bethlehem, Yuval Adler‘s debut feature that he co-wrote with Ali Waked. The movie premiered in Venice before heading to Telluride and Toronto. Over the weekend, it scooped six Ophir Awards — Israel’s Oscar equivalent — including Best Feature and Best Director. The film takes place largely in Jerusalem and the West Bank and focuses on an Israeli Secret Service officer and his teenage Palestinian informant, the younger brother of a sought-after militant. Adopt Films acquired Bethlehem for the U.S. last week. Israel last had an Oscar nomination with Joseph Cedar’s 2011 pic Footnote, but has never won in the category.

The Palestinian Ministry of Culture said Sunday afternoon that is is sending Omar to the Academy as its representative this year. Hany Abu-Assad’s film debuted in Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section where it picked up the Jury Prize. The political thriller is also an impossible love story that employs themes of trust and betrayal on the West Bank. Palestine does not submit a film to the Oscars each year and Omar is notable for being the first feature to be completed independently, with 95% percent of the budget contributed by private Palestinian investors. Its North American debut was as an Official Selection in Toronto. It will also screen at the New York Film Festival, the BFI London Film Festival and the Dubai International Film Festival. Abu-Assad’s Paradise Now was nominated for an Oscar in 2005.

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