May 29, 2007

Shira Gefen and Etgar Keret pose with their Golden Camera award. (Photo: AP) The closing night at the Cannes Film Festival was a momentous one for Israel. Filmmakers Shira Geffen and her husband Etgar Keret (better known for his prolific career as a novelist) were awarded one of Cannes’ top prizes, the Camera D’Or.

The prize is given to the best feature film produced by a first time filmmaker. Entitled Meduzot, or Jellyfish, the film tells the intertwining stories of three women who live near the beach in Tel Aviv. Geffen wrote the script and Keret co-directed. “It was the product of four years of work,” Geffen said following the win.

With over 30 films contending in the category, the competition was steep. “We really didn’t think we would win,” Geffen said in a radio interview. “We had our bags packed and we were practically on our way to the airport [before we found out].”

When the couple did discover their film won the award, they could barely contain their disbelief.

“Actually, they told us to write down everything, but it’s too exciting to read it,” Keret said from the stage. “Everything here is so far from our lives. I haven’t worn a suit since my bar mitzvah. Thank you very much, my strong wife.”

In an interview with Army Radio, Keret explained why he felt his film was such a long shot for the coveted prize. “Generally, the judges are very political and extreme. There were 33 other films, and ours was an urban fairy tale without any outstanding characteristic. The judges spoke with us after the film and were happy to tell us they saw something different in our film – real people, not items from CNN. It seems to have worked in our favor.”

Meduzot also garnered other smaller awards at the festival, including a French Actor’s Union award.

Though Geffen and Keret haven’t formulated their future filmmaking plans yet, they will be off to a good start with the prestige of the prize behind them and a 50,000 euro grant from the festival. The festival also allocated 160,000 euro toward the promotion of Meduzot in France.

Israeli director Keren Yedaya was the last Israeli to win in the Camera d’Or category, in 2004, with Or. Eran Kolirin’s Orchestra Visit, which stars Sasson Gabai and Ronit Elkabetz, also won two minor awards in Cannes this year.

Indeed this year has proven truly remarkable for Israeli filmmakers. An Israeli won a major award at nearly every major international film festival. At Berlin’s festival, Joseph Cedar won the coveted Golden Bear for his direction of Beaufort. David Volach won the top prize for feature films at Tribeca’s Film Festival with My Father, My Lord, and Dror Shaul’s Sweet Mud won for Best World Feature at Sundance.

The Israeli film industry is transforming itself in terms of quality and quantity, and the world seems to be taking notice.

(Reprinted with permission from The Jerusalem Post)

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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