Israeli Director Wins Toronto Festival Prize for Her Debut Film on Ethiopia

Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian's film 'The Fig Tree' won the Audentia Award for best female director. Director Guy Nattiv wins critics' award for his first English-language film 'Skin'

Nirit Anderman
Nirit Anderman
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Scene from the movie 'Skin'
Scene from the movie 'Skin'Credit: Courtesy
Nirit Anderman
Nirit Anderman

Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian's "The Fig Tree" won the Audentia Award for best film by a female director at the Toronto International Film Festival, taking home a 30,000 Euro grant.

Israeli director Guy Nattiv won the Fipresci Jury Award for Special Presentations for his first American film called "Skin."

The most important prize at the Canadian festival – the People's Choice Award – went to Peter Farrelly's film "Green Book." The prize has been won in the past by movies that went on to win Oscars in the best-film category or were favorites to do so, such as "The King's Speech," "12 Years a Slave" and "La La Land."

"Green Book," starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, is based on the true life story of classical pianist Don Shirley, who in the course of a concert series in the southern U.S. in 1962 hired a white driver for his own safety.

Trailer from Israeli winner at the Toronto International Film Festival, 'The Fig Tree'

Nattiv's film, who lives in the U.S., is about a neo-Nazi youth who decides to change his life and turn his back on hatred and violence, which he does with the aid of a black activist and a woman he loves. The movie was produced by Oren Moverman and purchased this week by the A24 film distribution company.

"The Fig Tree" produced by Naomi Levari and Saar Yogev from Black Sheep Film Productions is Davidian's feature debut. It defeated 12 other films and also debuted at the festival as part of the "Discovery Section."

'Green Book'

Davidian, who immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia at the age of 11, filmed the movie in her hometown, Addis Ababa, in Amharic, with a team of local actors. It takes place at the end of the 1980s and the early 1990s and tells of Mina, a young woman who is friends with Ali and meets with him under the fig tree.

While he is hiding from the authorities to avoid being drafted for the civil war taking place at that time, Mina's family is preparing to immigrate to Israel. Mina doesn't want to leave Ali and so she comes up with a plan for him to join her family on their journey.

The Israeli-German-French co-production was shown at the festival with five other Israeli movies: Avi Nesher's "The Other Story," "Redemption" by Yossi Madmoni and Boaz Yehonatan Yaacov, "Working Woman" by Michal Aviad, "The Dive" by Yona Rosenbauer and "Tel Aviv on Fire" by Sameh Zoabi – all in the "Contemporary World Cinema" category.

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