Israeli Director's Movie Makes Iranian Critics' Top 10 List of the Year

'It’s very exciting, even though it's clear that no film will prevent confrontation,' director of Golden Bear winner 'Synonyms' says

Itay Stern
Itay Stern
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Israeli director Nadav Lapid
Israeli director Nadav Lapid Credit: Moti Milrod
Itay Stern
Itay Stern

The film “Synonyms,” which was directed by Israeli Nadav Lapid, has been selected by a forum of 42 film critics in Iran as one of the top 10 films of the past year.

The movie, which won the Golden Bear in 2019, the award for the best film at the Berlin film festival, was presented by the Iranian critics as a French film, and in fact it was produced by a French film fund, but the plot, as well as the film’s director, screenwriter and lead actor, Tom Mercier, are all Israeli. The film was rated in the tenth spot by the Iranian critics on a list in which first place went to Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman.”

“Parasites,” by South Korea’s Bong Joon-ho, which took the top honor at this past year’s Cannes film festival, was garnered the second spot on the Iranian list, followed by Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and Pedro Almodovar’s “Pain and Glory.”

“When I decided to try to direct films 20 years ago in Paris, Iranian cinema was perhaps the most complex and fascinating in the world, and Iranian films at the time shaped my cinematic thought,” Lapid told Haaretz after learning about the honor that his film earned from the Iranian critics.

Tom Mercier in the movie “Synonyms” by Nadav Lapid
Tom Mercier in the movie “Synonyms” by Nadav LapidCredit: Guy Ferrandis / SBS Films

“Today as well, there is a major cinema culture in Iran that we can look to. I’ve already had the occasion to encounter Lebanese, Syrian and Iranian filmmakers abroad who have told me that they’ve seen my films at underground showings at private film clubs in their countries. It’s very exciting, even though it’s clear that no film will prevent confrontation and that the brutality of power is silencing cinema in an instant.”

“Synonyms” is Lapid’s third full-length movie, and followed “The Policeman” and “The Kindergarten Teacher,” which also earned film awards. “The Kindergarten Teacher” was remade in the United States into a movie starring Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Since picking up the Golden Bear at the Berlin film festival, “Synonym” has also garnered a slew of other awards. It was included in IndieWire’s top 100 films of the decade and was on the New York Times’ critics’ list of the best films of the past year.

Meanwhile, highly respected French film magazine Cahiers du cinema chose “Synonyms” this week as one of its best films of 2019, based on a poll of readers. The other top films on its list included “Parasites,” “Pain and Glory,” “The Irishman” and “Joker.” The editors of “Cahiers du cinema” also chose Lapid’s next film, “Chaos” (“Le Genou d’Ahed” in French) which was filmed in Israel’s southern Arava region, as one of the most anticipated films of 2020.

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