Orit Fouks Rotem’s Cinema Sabaya will be Israel’s entry to the best international film category in this year’s Oscar race, following its best picture win at the country’s Ophir national cinema awards over the weekend.
Under Israel’s Oscar entry selection process, the work that wins the best film Ophir is automatically put forward as the country’s submission.
Cinema Sabaya also won best Director, Supporting Actress, Costumes and Casting
The fiction feature follows eight women from different sides of the Middle East conflict who participate in a video workshop using footage they have shot of their lives.
The group dynamic forces them to challenge their views and beliefs as they get to know each other and themselves better.
Cinema Sabaya is Rotem’s first feature after a trio of award-winning shorts comprising Veil, Voice Over and Staring Match.
The film grew from Rotem’s real-life experiences teaching mixed groups of women in Acres and Givat Haviva in Northern Israel.
World sales are handled by Memento International.
The film is produced by Maya Fischer, Gal Greenspan and Roi Kurland at Green Productions (Scaffolding, Menashe, Youth, Summer Vacation), in co-production with Aurélien Bodinaux from Neon Rouge in Belgium (Downstream to Kinshasa, The Mercy of the Jungle).
Backers include the Israeli Film Fund, Wallonia-Brussels Federation, The Weil-Bloch Foundation, The New Fund for Cinema and Television, Israel Film Council and The Ministry of Culture and Sports, The Israel Lottery Council for Culture & Arts.
The film was developed in Jerusalem Film Lab, was selected to IFP/Gotham No Borders, and won the first prize in Cinemarket Haifa FF work in progress by Post Republic.
Israel has never won the best international film Oscar but has clinched 10 nominations since 1964, while Ofir Raul Grazier’s drama The Cakemaker was the last Israeli film to make headway in the race, reaching the shortlist in 2018.