January 25, 2012, Updated September 11, 2012

Iran and Israel are set for a ritzy confrontation next month as the two go head-to-head for the Best Foreign Language film award at the Oscars. A Separation, the Iranian nominee, and Footnote, Israel’s contender, topped the list of candidates for the coveted American Academy Award.

Joseph Cedar

Photo by Ren Mendelson, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Director Joseph Cedar.

Both Footnote and A Separation scored well with critics during the past year and the films won major awards at international festivals.

“There is something poetic about competing against Iran. Like in the film, there is a constant double sensation – on the one hand excitement and pride, and on the other hand fear,” said Israeli director Joseph Cedar.

Footnote tells the story of a father and son who are Talmud scholars in Israel and the rivalry between them. Local film buffs hope this film will finally bring home Israel’s first Oscar award.

“We jumped up and down and screamed and mostly felt a great relief,” Cedar told Reuters upon hearing the news that his film was up for an Oscar. “I’m still not sure it’s not a mistake.”

Four years ago, Cedar’s film Beaufort about the Israeli army’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon – was up for the same award at the Oscars but did not win.

A Separation focuses on a couple who must decide whether to leave Iran to give their child a better life, or stay to take care of an ailing parent. The other foreign language film nominees include In Darkness (Poland), Canadian entry Monsieru Lazhar and Bullhead from Belgium.

Winners of the 84th annual American film awards will be announced at a Feb. 26 ceremony in Hollywood.

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