To Culture Minster's Horror, 'Foxtrot' Wins Highest Award at 'Israeli Oscars'

The movie which had drawn harsh criticism from Culture Minister Miri Regev, won seven awards at the ceremony, including Best Movie, the ceremony's highest honor

Actor Lior Ashkenazi won the Ophir Award's Best Actor award for his role in "Foxtrot."
Actor Lior Ashkenazi won the Ophir Award's Best Actor award for his role in "Foxtrot." Ilan Assayag

"Foxtrot," a film exploring the occupation and its effects on Israeli society, has won seven awards, including Best Movie, at the Israeli equivalent of the Oscars on Tuesday night.

Culture Minister Miri Regev, who was not invited to the Ophir Awards ceremony, had publicly attacked the movie and its director Samuel Maoz, saying that the movie "undermined the State of Israel."

"Foxtrot" tells the story of a Tel Aviv couple and their son’s military service, in which he mans an isolated checkpoint. It delves into the charged issue of the occupation and how it effects those who partake in it as part of their required military service. 

"Foxtrot" won seven of the 13 awards it had been in the running for on Tuesday night, including Best Movie, the ceremony's highest honor. Moaz won the best director award and Lior Ashkenazi won best actor for his role.

When the film premiered in Venice recently, Regev released a statement calling the film a “disgrace” that “shamed the reputation of the IDF” and showed “contempt for the state and its symbols.”

Earlier Tuesday, Regev had also taken the Israeli Film and Television Academy and its chairman, Mosh Danon, to task for the academy's decision not to invite her to the ceremony.

Danon didn't shy away from the topic in his opening speech. Though not explicitly naming Regev, he defended the ceremony against charges of being anti-Israel in honoring films that provide a critical look at the government and its policies. 

"We all belong to this place, no less than anyone else," Danon said, "We care about this place, no less than anyone else. We are storytellers, we are not traitors."

Maoz told one reporter  in Venice this month his hope was that “Foxtrot” would trigger discussions in Israel over what happens in the military, and its consequences.

“I feel that people prefer to repress it, to deny it, to bury it,” he explained. “If I had done a movie about a terrible crime in the police, the next morning [people] would say nothing happened – they would understand it was a film. But if you touch the army, it’s very sensitive.”

Asked if he was concerned about being viewed as a “traitor” in Israel, he replied: “The opposite. Every human society should strive to be better and improve itself. The basic and necessary condition for improvement is the ability to accept self-criticism. If I criticize the place [where] I live, I do it because I worry. I do it because I want to protect it. I do it from love.”

At last year’s awards, Regev left the hall the moment performers Tamer Nafar and Yossi Zabari took to the stage and recited the opening lines from “ID Card” by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish: “Write it down, I’m an Arab.” When she returned to the hall and went onstage to present an award, her speech degenerated into a confrontation with members of the audience.

"Foxtrot" won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival earlier this month and now, having won Best Film at the Ophir Awards, will be Israel's entry in the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, to be held in March 2018.