'Bethlehem' Heads to Academy Awards After Winning Six 'Israeli Oscars'

Yuval Adler's film about the complicated relationship between a Shin Bet agent and a Palestinian teenager will represent Israel in the Foreign Film category.

Last night — two days after winning the award for best Israeli feature film at the Haifa International Film Festival — Yuval Adler's debut film Bethlehem won six Ophir Awards, presented by the Israeli Academy of Film and Television. At the awards ceremony, which was held at the Haifa Theatre, academy members awarded the film prizes for best feature film, best director (with Ali Waked), best actor (Shadi Mar'i), best supporting actor (Tzachi Halevy), best editing (Ron Omer), and best casting (Liron Zohar and Naama Zaltsman).

Having garnered so many awards here in Israel, Bethlehem will go on to represent Israel at the Academy Awards in the foreign film category.

Bethlehem, which had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, tells the story of the complicated relationship between an Israeli Shin Bet agent and a Palestinian teenager who serves as his informant — and who happens to be the younger brother of the commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in the city.

The film that won the next largest number of awards after Bethlehem was Big Bad Wolves, directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, which won five awards (best cinematography, best makeup, best production design, best original music and best original soundtrack).

The award for best actress went to Sivan Levy for her performance in Six Acts, about the issues of consent that arise when a teenage girl tries to improve her social status at her new high school using her sexuality. "In this film, I learned how easy it can be sometimes for us to go along to get along, and where we should set our boundaries," Levy said during her acceptance speech.

The award for best actor went to Makhram Khoury for his performance in Magic Men, while Liora Rivlin won the award for best supporting actress for her performance in She Is Coming Home.

Dror Moreh's film The Gatekeepers won the award for best documentary, beating out both The Garden of Eden, directed by Ran Tal, and Guy Davidi's Five Broken Cameras, which competed with it for the Academy Award in the documentary film category. The award for best short feature film, which was given this year for the first time, went to Aya, which was directed by Oded Ben Nun and Michal Brazis.

The Ophir Lifetime Achievement Award went to the Hagashash Hahiver trio (the name means "the pale tracker," after a song performed by the trio) — Yeshayahu Levi (Shaike), Gavriel Banai (Gavri) and the late Yisrael Poliakov (Poli) — to mark 50 years since the trio was established. "Thank you very much to our father in heaven, the great Pachanel [the trio's producer, Avraham Deshe], who kept us going and gave us a space free from worry," Shaike Levi said in the acceptance speech. He also thanked the three film directors with whom the trio worked in the past — Uri Zohar, Ephraim Kishon and Assi Dayan — and said how much he missed Poliakov, who passed away in 2007. "He was a comedian gifted by God, so maybe God took him for Himself," Levi said.

Rami Chelouche