Israeli Film Ajami Takes Best First Feature at London Festival

Israeli documentary Defamation also wins top place; Ajami now to face off 54 films at Academy Awards.

The Israeli film "Ajami," a potential contender for the Academy Awards' Best Foreign Language Film prize, took the Sutherland first-feature award at the London Film Festival on Wednesday.

Another film recognized at the event was the documentary "Defamation," a look at anti-Semitism around the world, which won its director Yoav Shamir the Grierson documentary prize.

"Ajami," co-directed by Palestinian Scandar Copti and Israeli Yaron Shani, and set in a mixed Jewish-Arab district of Jaffa, was placed on the preliminary list of candidates for the Academy Award's 2010 Best Foreign Language Film earlier this month.

Israel's entry, however, will likely face tough competition. As of Wednesday, 54 films were on the Academy's preliminary list.

Israeli films have been on the Academy Awards short list of nominees for two years running, with 2008's "Beaufort" and 2009's "Waltz with Bashir" both failing to take the prize.

"Ajami" also won a certificate of distinction in the Camera d'Or competition at last May's Cannes Film Festival as well as winninh a prestigious local prize, the Israel Film Academy's Ophir Award for Best Film, earlier this month.