Finally, the voting of the Hollywood Film Arts Academy is in and the Israeli movie Beaufort didn’t win the Oscar. Losing out to another foreign language film entitled The Counter Fitters, many members of the Israeli film arts industry are perhaps a bit disappointed that this movie, based on the experiences of an IDF combat unit in a bunker atop the ancient Lebanese Crusader fortress of Beaufort, didn’t result in Producer David Silver and Director Joseph Cedar mounting the stage for the first time to give their acceptance speech for the coveted award.
Or, was perhaps losing the Oscar really a blessing in disguise?
The film was produced in 2007 following the book written by Ron Leshem, as is based on true experiences of members of some of Israeli’s top Golani Brigade solders who were literally holed up in a number of bunkers along the ten kilometer “security zone” that Israel held onto for nearly 20 years following the 1982 Peace for Galilee operation, otherwise known as the 1st Lebanese War. Their experiences, followed by the decision by then Prime Minister Ehud Barak to pull all Israeli troops out of Lebanon is a move still being criticized by many in Israel to this day, and rejoiced by many others; especially the families of the soldiers who lost many of their comrades during the final months until the pull back in May, 1999.
Since the film’s script does not portray Israel combat soldiers as the strong, courageous soldiers that used to be appropriate metaphors for the Israeli Defense Forces, winning an Academy Award for a portrayal of a top military combat unit cast in an entirely different light, might have only put “salt on the wound” of a still festering sore. This insight is also very plausible in the aftermath of the 2006 Lebanese II war in which Israeli combat units, particularly reserve units were sent into southern Lebanon in the final 48 hours of the war without adequate training and equipment, including basic combat rations and even fresh water.
In a way, in many Israeli peoples’ minds, the fact that this film didn’t win may be better in the long run as present top IDF officers, including the new Chief of Staff, are trying to upgrade and improve the IDF’s image; not only to Israel’s enemies, but to Israeli citizens themselves. Any acclaim over winning an Oscar, despite what it could have done to bolster the local film industry, might wind up doing more harm than good to the country’s national image; an image that Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, repeatedly castigates as being severely weakened in the aftermath of both the 1999 re-engagement and Lebanon II.
This year’s Academy Awards presentation ended with a number of lesser known actors winning the top awards, including best actor and actress. There was some respite for Jews living in Israel and elsewhere when the Cohen brothers won the awards for Best Director and Best Picture. That’s nothing new, as Jews has been very dominant in the Hollywood film industry almost since it’s beginning in the 1920’s.
As for disappointed Israeli actors and film moguls, there’s always next year; and perhaps they can come up with some film subject matter that is a bit less controversial.