February 26, 2009, Updated September 14, 2012

It’s hard not to get excited with all the hoopla surrounding the Oscars, particularly for Israelis living in Los Angeles, who are a mere heartbeat away from the Hollywood glitz and glamour when it comes to awards season.

But on Sunday night, the community was devastated, when, for the second year in a row, an Israeli film narrowly missed out on winning the Best Foreign Language Film award.

Los Angeles’ Consul General, Jacob Dayan, has been an amazing advocate for all things Israel in the 18 months he’s been here. Last year, at an Oscar Viewing party at the Avalon in Hollywood, hosted by SonyPictures, prominent Israelis, together with Jewish community giants came together to root for Beaufort. The tables were dotted with little golden Oscar statuettes bearing the film’s name, and the excitement in the air was palpable. But when the movie lost out to the Austrian film The Counterfeiters, everyone was disappointed. Nonetheless, Dayan promised that Israel would be a contender yet again.

Fast forward one year, and the party, the glitz, the glamour, and the anticipation were ratcheted up to an all-time high. After winning a slew of
awards at various film festivals around the world, Ari Folman and Waltz with Bashir were practically considered a shoe-in for the big win.

In keeping with these great expectations, the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles pulled out all the stops, teaming up with ex-pat Israeli and
prominent local philanthropist Daphna Ziman, at her Children Uniting Nations Charity Viewing Dinner and After Party, sponsored by The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard Magazine, and 95.3 The Beat. Held at the glitzy Beverly Hilton, the night was a glittering Hollywood bash, complete with red carpet arrivals, stunning ball gowns, over-the-top jewels, and security guards that would put Los Angeles International airport to shame.

Two years in a row isn’t a coincidence

Israeli media crews jostled for position on the red carpet with reporters from The Hollywood Reporter, People, Star and US Weekly magazines. They fell over themselves to speak with the Consul General, Israeli animators on Waltz with Bashir and some of the celebrities who paraded down the carpet, including Jane Seymour, Ted Danson and the Black Eyed Peas.

Dayan was upbeat and excited, saying: “This is one of the best Israeli movies I ever saw and hopefully it will be the first Israeli film to ever win an Oscar.” When reminded that he said the same thing last year about Beaufort, Dayan said: “And I promised you that this year we were going to win, and I hope to keep my word. [Being nominated] two years in a row proves
this is not a coincidence and the Israeli movie industry is really doing well and developing.”

Walking the red carpet, young Israeli actress Alona Tal, best known for her role in the American television series Supernatural, said: “I think everybody is very proud of Waltz with Bashir and we all really want to celebrate it together. I also think everyone has faith that we will win this year… or at least we hope we will win this year.”

Inside, on each seat at every table in the vast ballroom, was a small 16-page brochure filled with information about Waltz with Bashir. A phalanx of Israeli media, together with consulate officials, and prominent Jewish
community members sat clustered around several tables, nibbling on their dinner and watching the Oscars unfold on the big screens, nervously
anticipating the Best Foreign Film announcement.

In one corner, decked out in frothy, beaded dresses were Neta Holzer and Osnat (Osi) Wald, two of the animators on the film. The “Israeli corner” was upbeat, and excited, telling everyone that this year was the year for Israel. When the announcement came from Friedo Pinto (of Slumdog Millionaire) that the Oscar was won by the Japanese film Departures, there was a stunned silence for several moments, before Holzer and Wald were rushed by the Israeli press for their reactions.

We thought it was ours this year

They were stoic in defeat but Holzer was blinking back tears as she stared into the bright lights of the TV cameras and spoke about how it was great to just be nominated. The Israeli press patted them on the backs saying “It’s not so bad,” and “Don’t worry, we are with you,” with one reporter declaring: “Those Japanese, they stole [the award] from us!” Another reporter stated: “I’m in shock. I really thought it was ours this year.”

Gracious in defeat, Dayan said: “I’m disappointed. I was extremely hopeful that we would win. But hopefully we’ll continue to produce good Israeli films that will be nominated around the world.”

When asked if he was aware that the Japanese film could have been a real contender, Dayan said, “Yes. We heard about it on Saturday (the day before the Oscars). There’s an Internet site famous for reporting actual results and the word was that the Japanese film was going to win.” Dayan also said he spent the previous night with Folman, “and he told me that he had heard the same thing.”

Folman himself made his way to the after party at the Beverly Hilton following the awards ceremony, where he told the press who clamored for sound bites that he was “disappointed, but it’s time to move on.”

For now, though, the crazy awards season is over, and Folman and co. will return home to Israel, and Israelis everywhere (and most notably in
Hollywood) will hold out that there will be yet another Israeli film ready to storm the 82nd Annual Academy Awards in 12 months time.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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