REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM -- The Israeli film "Footnote" was nominated in the Academy Awards' Best Foreign Language Film category Tuesday. This is Israel's fourth nomination in recent years and the second for producer Joseph Cedar, whose movie "Beaufort" put the country's film industry back on the red carpet in 2008 after more than two decades.
This year's entry is markedly different from previously nominated films. "Beaufort" told the tale of the last days of Israel's decades-long entanglement in South Lebanon; in the animated "Waltz with Bashir," director Ari Folman reconstructed his own memories as a young soldier when that war had just begun. "Ajami" was a Jewish-Arab co-production that placed the mixed town of Jaffa in the spotlight.
"Footnote" portrays the relations between two Talmudic scholars, a father and son occupying the same niche in the unforgiving and stubborn world of academia and scholarship. The relatively obscure and off-topic subject matter was a gamble. International reviews were mixed but it paid off hugely with Israeli movie-goers and left its mark at Cannes, winning the best screenplay award.
"Who knows, maybe this time it will happen," Cedar told Israeli journalists, saying it was flattering to share the nomination with a list of excellent movies.
The other nominees in the foreign language category include the Iranian film "A Separation," by Asghar Farhadi. Speaking to journalists after the announcement, Cedar said he and Farhadi had met on several occasions.
"We have had very interesting conversations," Cedar said. And assuming that he understood Farhadi's interpreter correctly, "there are more than a few things common to our situations." Cedar said there was "something poetic" about the competition.
The other films nominated in the category are "Bullhead" from Belgium, "In Darkness" from Poland and "Monsieur Lazhar" from Canada.
The Academy Awards will be presented Feb. 26 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.
-- Batsheva Sobelman
Photo: Filmmaker Joseph Cedar at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Credit: Stephanie Cornfield / For The Times