A record 31 feature films will compete for this year’s prestigious Ophir Awards, bestowed by the Israeli Academy of Film and Television. The films will compete for prizes in different categories, including the award for ‘Best Film,’ the winner of which will represent Israel as a nominee for best foreign film at the Oscars. There are 38 films competing for the title of ‘Best Documentary Film.’

As a result of the increase in the number of films being produced in Israel over the last few years – due largely in part to the advent of new technology, making it possible to film on a budget – the Israeli Academy of Film and Television decided to divide the features into two categories.

From this year on, filmmakers whose films have a budget of less than NIS 1 million can choose to enter their film in the normal competition, or in a new, special category, which the academy is currently calling “Fringe or Gallery Films.”

For the films competing in the new category, there will be a preliminary vote, through which the finalists for each category will be determined. The film that receives the most ballots in this preliminary vote will automatically become a contender for the “Best Film” prize. Voters will not know which films were entered in the new category. This way, the academy believes, the chances of a low-budget film winning the top prize will be higher.

Among the films competing this year are “Dr. Pomerantz,” written and directed by Assi Dayan, “Yossi,” directed by Eytan Fox, “Filling the Void” directed by Rama Bustein, “Joe + Belle” directed by Veronica Kedar, and Dover Koshashvili’s “Single+.”

Last year, the academy also announced a record 31 film entries for the Ophir Awards, however some of the films were not completed in time, and only 26 participated in the awards. This year, the academy claims that they have checked with filmmakers to determine the production stage of each entry, in order to prevent a repeat of last years events.

The finalists of each category will be announced in August, and the awards ceremony will be held in September.