The Israeli film Beaufort, directed by Joseph Cedar and based on the best selling novel by Ron Leshem, has just been nominated by the U.S. Academy Awards for an Oscar as the best foreign film for 2007.
The film is based on the trials and tribulations of an IDF combat unit in the weeks prior to Israel’s abandonment of Lebanon in May, 1999. Though criticized by some as being too negative in regards to the morale in an Israeli combat unit, others who have either read the book or seen the film say that it may be one of the best combat soldier war epics since the classic novel All’s Quiet on the Western Front by German novelist Eric Maria Remarque.
Cedar, who is a veteran IDF soldier and himself served in Lebanon, was so lost for words during a press conference Tuesday afternoon at Israel’s Cinema City that he found it hard to speak about the film that portrays the emotions and fears of young soldiers under constant attack and barrage by Hezbollah militia fighters. Pinned down in their bunker atop the former Crusader fortress of Beaufort, the soldiers experience very similar fears and personal trials as the young soldiers in Remarque’s novel, based on a war which occurred more than 80 years before.
An Israel film has not been nominated by the Hollywood Film Academy since Behind the Walls, a movie based on Israeli prison life, received a nomination in 1984. In a recent review by the New York Times, the film is considered a lesson in the futility of war, and that it portrays the truly human side of the young combatants who wear military gear that almost resembles something out of a science fiction story, which only adds to the depression and anxiety they feel as they confront an enemy skilled in a type of fighting that has become known as “asymmetric warfare”. Though they are under constant bombardment and rarely even see their enemy, they begin to create their own intimate society within the twisting concrete corridors of their bunker, which they consider as their home. Only a series of disastrous command decisions by their commanding officer, Liraz, often a victim of his own emotions, make the soldiers aware of their predicament at the hands of a much more skillful enemy.
The film previously won the Silver Bear film award at the Berlin Film Festival last year, which makes the film even more similar to Remarque’s story which also won several awards after it was later made into a movie. Beaufort is in contention with other foreign films from Poland, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Austria. Barring its possible cancellation if the Hollywood writer’s strike is not settled, the final decision on the Oscar award will be announced at the Academy Awards Ceremony in Hollywood on February 27.