Israeli Film to Compete for Top Prize at Berlin’s International Film Festival

Nadav Lapid’s new film, 'Synonyms,' is in the running for the Golden Bear, while four other Israeli films will be screened at festival

From Nadav Lapid's film "Synonyms."
Guy Ferrandis / SBS Films

A new film by Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid is in the running for the Golden Bear prize at the Berlin International Film Festival in February.

“Synonyms,”a French/Israeli/German co-production shot last year in Paris, tells the story of Yoav, (Tom Mercier), an Israeli who arrives in France and hopes that being French in Paris will free him from the madness of living in Israel.

“The film is closely based on my experience when I arrived in Paris 17 years ago,” Lapid told Haaretz. Lapid is famous for several previous movies he made, including prizewinning "Policemen." 

The 69th annual Berlin festival runs from the 7th to the 17th of February.

The film was produced by Said Ben Said, who has produced films in recent years for famous filmmakers such as Paul Verhoeven, Roman Polanski and Brian de Palma. 

“Synonyms” is the last movie to be edited by Lapid’s late mother, famous Israeli editor Ara Lapid, who died this year. “The movie was edited between editing rooms and hospital rooms. She gave it shape but didn’t manage to complete it. The film is dedicated to her,” he says.

The last Israeli film to contend for the prestigious Golden Bear was “Lipstikka,” Jonathan Segal’s movie from 2010. “Beaufort,” Joseph Cedar’s film that contended for the prize in 2007 won the Silver Bear award, the second most important prize.

Four other Israeli movies will screen at the festival : “Chained,” the new film by Yaron Shani; Nimrod Eldar’s “The Day After I’m Gone”; “Bethlehem” creator Yuval Adler’s “The Operative”; and Guy Nattiv’s “Skin” – his first full length American film.

“Chained” is the second part in Shani’s love trilogy. The first part, “Naked,” premiered in the last Venice festival. Produced by Naomi Levari and Saar Yogev, it tells the story of a veteran police officer whose life falls apart when two youths accuse him of molestation.

“The Day After I’m Gone” is Eldar’s first movie. Starring Menashe Noy and Zohar Meidan, it follows the tale of a single, middle-aged father who is forced to deal with his daughter’s wish to end her life. The film won the Sam Spiegel Alumni Award and the “Cinelink” award for Work in Progress at the Sarajevo Film Festival.

Yuval Adler’s “The Operative” is an espionage thriller focusing on a Mossad operation in Iran. Based on Yiftach Reicher-Atir’s eponymous book, the film stars German-American Hollywood actress Diane Kruger as a Mossad agent, alongside Martin Freeman and Israeli actor Liron Levo.

“Skin” is the true story of Byron Winder, an American skinhead trying to leave his neo-Nazi past behind him. The short movie that this film is based on will be screened in the festival’s Panorama category. On Wednesday it was reported that its short version, also made by Guy Nativ and written with Sharon Maimon, was listed among the 10 movies competing for the Oscar for the best short film.

The judges panel will be headed this year by French Actress Juliette Binoche and the festival will hold a special tribute for the Oscar-nominated British-French actress Charlotte Rampling.