“Lebanon,” a film written and directed by Israeli Samuel Maoz, is a leading contender in six prize categories at this year’s European Film Academy awards. The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Tallinn, Estonia on December 4.
“Lebanon” is a finalist in the categories of best film, best director, best screenplay, best editing and best cinematography. The academy also announced that Maoz is a candidate for its European Discovery award, which is conferred upon “a young and upcoming director for a first full-length feature film.” This is the first time an Israeli film has been a candidate in such a large number of prize categories in this competition.
In 2007, the European academy awarded Sasson Gabai best actor for his role in “The “Band’s Visit,” while its director, Eran Kolirin, received the European Discovery Award. Israeli films have only been eligible for the competition since 2004.
The plot of “Lebanon” is based on Maoz’s experiences in the First Lebanon War. It takes place on the first day of the war and follows a group of Israeli soldiers who have been sent in a tank to survey a hostile Lebanese town and find themselves involved in a violent confrontation. The film portrays, among other things, the dilemmas they face.
Maoz says he was especially surprised at the response of young audiences in Europe, particularly in Britain and Scandinavia. “A lot of people who saw the film [abroad] told me they were sure the Israeli soldier was a kind of killer who goes around Gaza killing children, and all of a sudden, when they see ‘Lebanon,’ they understand he is a person like them, thinking and agonizing over what to do, dealing with conflicts and situations forced upon him.”
Released last year, “Lebanon” won the Golden Lion award for best film at the 2009 Venice Film Festival, the first time an Israeli film won top recognition in Venice. The film was not a box office success in Israel, but attracted critical acclaim in Europe and the United States.
Maoz says his next project is a screenplay for a black comedy.