Israeli film Lebanon
A scene from the Israeli film Lebanon.
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"Lebanon," a film written and directed by Israeli Samuel Maoz, is a leading contender at this year's European Film Academy awards. The academy announced award finalists yesterday, and Maoz and his film are in contention in six prize categories. The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Tallinn, Estonia on December 4.

"Lebanon" is a finalist as best film in addition to the categories of best director, best screenplay, best editing and best cinematography. Last month it was announced that Maoz is also a candidate for the academy's European Discovery award, which is conferred upon "a young and upcoming director for a first full-length feature film," as the academy describes it. This is the first time an Israeli film has been a candidate in such a large number of prize categories in this competition.

In 2007, Sasson Gabai picked up the European academy's award for best actor in "The "Band's Visit," while director Eran Kolirin was honored with the European Discovery Award for best new director for the movie. Israeli films have only been eligible for the competition since 2004.

The plot of "Lebanon," which is based on Maoz's own experiences in the First Lebanon War, takes place on the first day of the war and follows a group of Israeli soldiers who have been sent in a tank to survey a hostile Lebanese town and find themselves in a violent confrontation that they cannot subdue. The film portrays, among other things, the dilemmas they face.

"Lebanon," which was released last year, gained prominence in Europe when it won the Golden Lion award as best film at the 2009 Venice Film Festival, the first time an Israeli film won top recognition in Venice. After that triumph, the movie became a contender at other festivals and was released for commercial distribution in a number of countries. Although "Lebanon" failed to garner major recognition at the Israeli Ophir film awards and was not a box office success here, it attracted critical acclaim in Europe and the United States.

Maoz, who returned yesterday from a film festival in Brazil, said he was pleased to hear the film was in contention for the European Academy's awards: "I just returned from Brazil, and I said to myself that this was my last trip and the time had come to take leave of 'Lebanon' and go on to the next project." He said that his next project will be a screenplay for a black comedy.

Maoz said he was especially surprised at the response of young audiences in Europe, particularly Britain and Scandinavia. "A lot of people who saw the film [abroad] told me they were sure the Israeli soldier was a kind of killer who goes around Gaza killing children, and all of a sudden, when they see 'Lebanon,' they understand he is a person like them, thinking and agonizing over what to do, dealing with conflicts and situations forced upon him."