Oscars: Israel Picks 'Bethlehem' for Foreign Language Category

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Bethlehem will represent Israel in its 46th year vying for the foreign language Oscar. The espionage thriller won 6 Ophir Awards, awarded by the Israeli Academy of Film and Television, including Best Film, in a ceremony held in Haifa on Sept. 28. The city just wrapped its annual film festival held this week, where Bethlehem also won for Best Film.

The film centers on a young Palestinian man recruited as an informant by an Israeli secret service operator, which leads him to discover plans to assassinate his brother. It was screened this past month at the Toronto International Film Festival and Telluride Film Festival, and won the top prize in the Venice Days section of the 70th Venice Film Festival.

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It marks Yuval Adler‘s full length feature directorial debut, which he co-wrote with Palestinian journalist Ali Waked. Adler was recently signed to WME.

Beginning with its first submission Sallah in 1964, Israel has had 10 nominated films but never won. The local creative renaissance in recent years brought upon the country's first nomination after a 23 years absence from the category in 2007, with director Joseph Cedar's Beaufort, followed by two consecutive nods in 2008 and 2009 for Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir (which won the equivalent Golden Globe) and Ajami, respectfully. Cedar also got Israel its most recent nomination in 2011 with Footnote.

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Although absent from last year's Best Foreign Language Film category, Israel was represented in the race with The Gatekeepers and the Palestinian-Israeli co-production 5 Broken Cameras, both nominated for Best Documentary Feature, which eventually went to Searching for Sugar Man.

Meanwhile, 2008 nominee Folman premiered his much anticipated follow up The Congress at the Cannes Film Festival back in May. The film, which stars Robin Wright, Jon Hamm and Harvey Keitel, is slated for a 2014 North American theatrical release through independent film distributor Drafthouse Films.

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