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"We knew that winning an Oscar would not be easy, and we talked about it a lot beforehand, but in Israel our expectations were overblown," said Dudi Zilber, one of "Beaufort's" producers, yesterday morning, a few hours after learning the Israeli film had not won the Oscar. "We are afraid to go back to Israel. They might open a commission of inquiry against us. Of course we're a bit disappointed. If things had turned out otherwise we would be happier, but it's not as if our world has collapsed."

Yesterday morning, shortly after midnight in Los Angeles, the Israeli delegation to the Academy Awards ceremonies sounded exhausted. "The transition from anticipating a win to knowing you haven't won saps your energy," explained "Beaufort" star Eli Altonio. "Standing in front of the media all day; the feeling that was in the air.

"We are disappointed at not winning the Oscar," continues Altonio, "but that is mixed with other feelings, like the motivation to go on and continue being appreciated, to go on making good movies, and also our gratitude for having made it this far. We did not feel we were here because the world pitied us, or because we are a developing country, but because our film industry is really starting to stand on its own two feet."

Altonio noted that director Joseph Cedar and lead actor Oshri Cohen had already left for their hotel rooms, to get some rest. Members of the delegation who were not in the hall, where the ceremony was held, watched the live broadcast on a huge screen, and at a festive event hosted by the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles.

The event was attended by Jewish representatives of the Hollywood film industry, Israeli artists Ninet Tayeb and Eli Yatzpan, many media crews, and children from Sderot.

Even though "Beaufort's" stars and creators will be returning to Israel without the golden statuette, they are taking advantage of their L.A. visit to make connections in Hollywood, in the hope of opening some doors to an international career.

Altonio relates that before the ceremony, he spoke with several producers.

"I felt it would be overboard and insensitive to be aggressive, with business cards and elbowing, as if everyone was waiting just for me," Altonio said. "When I approached them nicely, things happened, and I exchanged particulars with a few producers. In the next few days I will have some proper meetings with them, and I hope that something good will come out of those meetings."