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Eran Kolirin's 'Let It Be Morning' sweeps Israeli Ophir awards

Israeli filmmaker Eran Kolirin was the big winner in Tuesday night’s annual Ophir Awards ceremony.
Eran Kolirin's 'Let It Be Morning' sweeps Israeli Ophir awards

Known for his groundbreaking 2007 film The Band's Visit, which blended so perfectly both Palestinian and Israeli actors in a film that has gone on to inspire a best-selling Broadway musical, Eran Kolirin walked away a winner at this year's Ophir Awards ceremony. Let It Be Morning swept the Ophir awards, winning seven statuettes, including best director and screenplay for Kolirin, and best actor and actress, respectively, for Palestinian co-stars Alex Bakri and Juna Suleiman.

Palestinian actor Ehab Elias Salami won best supporting actor, while Suleiman also won best the prize for best casting.

The film is based on Sayed Kashua's hauntingly personal novel and tells the story of Sami, a Palestinian accountant and Israeli citizen, who is traveling home with his wife and son soon after departing a family wedding in his childhood village. After he and the family remain stuck in his childhood village due to some activity by the Israeli army, things begin to unravel. Let It Be Morning premiered in Cannes earlier this year and as the winner of the Ophir for feature film, it will automatically become Israel’s selection for a nomination for an Academy Award for best international film. The Band's Visit was disqualified because its dialogue was mainly in English.

When Let It Be Morning premiered on the Croisette, the Palestinian cast refused to attend the event, protesting Cannes’ designation of the film as Israeli, rather than Palestinian.

The Ophir ceremony seemed like it would be a repeat performance, until best supporting actor winner Salami, who was present at the ceremony, spoke from the stage:

“I have a dream, and that dream does not harm humanity, and doesn’t damage health. It’s in two acts — first, a just peace for the Palestinian people; the second act is a calm life, a peaceful life, a creative life for the citizens of the [Israeli] state." He was greeted by enthusiastic applause from the audience.

Other Ophir winners included Gigi Dar's animated feature Legend of Destruction which won best music, art design, editing and sound design. Reymonde Amsellem won best supporting actress for her performance in Amir Manor’s Tel Aviv-set prostitution drama The House On Fin Street and Avi Nesher’s Image Of Victory, which had garnered 15 nominations, won best cinematography, costumes and makeup. Vanessa Lapa's Speer Goes to Hollywood about Nazi criminal Albert Speer and his quest to sell the rights to his life story, walked away with the best documentary award.

Most critics and audiences have favoured Nadav Lapid's Ahed's Knee, which also premiered in Cannes and walked away with the Jury Prize there. Ahed's Knee was nominated for 8 Ophir awards but, at the end of the night, hadn't received a single statuette. The film is a personal commentary on the decaying state of culture in the filmmaker's homeland and has been picked up for distribution in the US by Kino Lorber. It is currently traveling on the festival circuit.

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