Ajami Producer: We Knew Argentine Film Would Win Oscar

No surprise Oscar judges opted for more 'American-oriented' entry, Israeli filmmaker says.

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The producer of Israeli Oscar hopeful Ajami on Monday expressed no surprise at being pipped to the 'best foreign film' award by Argentina's The Secret in Their Eyes, saying the judges were bound to favor the more 'American-oriented' entry.

"We mainly just feel relieved," Moshe Danon told Army Radio. "As usual, everyone knew in advance what would happen and we had every expectation the Argentinean film would win."

This was the third consecutive year that an Israeli film was nominated for the award. Last year Waltz with Bashir made the shortlist for the foreign-language Oscar but despite being tipped for success lost to the Japanese movie Departures. The previous year Beaufort was one of the top finalists but also came up short.

The Secret in Their Eyes was a deserving winner, Danon said. But the producer of Ajami, which depicts drugs, violence and poverty in a Jewish-Arab neighborhood in Jaffa, also believes that Oscars judges gravitated towards the Argentinean mystery thriller's more familiar material.

"They call it the 'best foreign film' award ? but in the end the winner was the film with a more American orientation," he said.

Ajami was directed by Scandar Copti, an Israeli Arab, and Yaron Shani, an Israeli Jew.

The movie used mainly nonprofessional actors, some of them residents of the Ajami neighborhood from which the film takes its name, who were taught in special workshops before filming began.

In the run up to Sunday night's award ceremony Copti sparked controversy at home when he proclaimed that he was not representing Israel in the Oscars race.

"I am not Israel's national team and do not represent it," Copti reportedly said. "It is an extremely technical thing and that's how it works at the Oscars - it says 'Israel' because that's where the money comes from."

Among those to condemn the comments was Culture Minister Limor Livnat.

"Without the support of the country, Copti would not be walking on the red carpet tonight," Livnat said. "It is sad that a director who was funded by the country is alienating those who helped him."