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An Israeli film and a Holocaust drama, along with an Iranian social critique, are among the best foreign film nominees.

Good News for Fans of Jewish Film

It’s almost embarrassing how much I love the Academy Awards. This year, however, the foreign film category holds special appeal to this Jewish film aficionado.

Although I expect “A Separation” will win, I have not seen it yet. The trailer looks terrific, however. The Iranian film, which nabbed a Golden Globe last week and has gotten great reviews, centers on a couple’s unraveling marriage.

But my allegiance is split between the Israeli nominee and a Holocaust drama, both of which I saw at the Telluride Film Festival in September.

“Footnote,” Israel’s entry, is a gripping character study directed by Joseph Cedar. The taut story focuses on the rivalry between father-and-son Talmudic scholars. Sony Pictures Classics plans to release the film in March. This is the 10th nomination for an Israeli film in this category – though none has ever won a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar – and the second nomination for Cedar, who was nominated in 2008 for “Beaufort.” (“Waltz with Bashir” and “Ajami” were Oscar nominees in 2009 and 2010, respectively.) Go Israel!!

“In Darkness,” from Jewish director Agnieszka Holland (“Europa, Europa”) is also a knockout, and probably the best film I saw at Telluride. Based on a true story about a Polish sewer worker who sheltered a group of Jews in the sewer during the Holocaust, the film is brilliant and brutal. It will be released theatrically in February – the trailer is now playing at the 29th St Theaters.

I loved both these films so much, I don’t care which one wins. I am just thrilled they are nominated and hope that earns them larger audiences.

Of course, there are, as always, other Jewish points of interest in this year’s nominees, announced Tuesday. Woody Allen was rightfully acknowledged for his enchanting “Midnight in Paris,” which has been nominated for best picture, best director and best original screenplay.

“Moneyball” earned adapted screenplay nominations for Aaron Sorkin (with Steven Zailian) and best supporting actor nomination for that loveable shlub, Jonah Hill, who gave a terrifically understated performance in this excellent movie. Spielberg got a nod for “War Horse.” No comment.

You can be sure I’ll be glued to my big screen TV on February 26. Champagne, anyone?

About Kathryn Bernheimer

Director of Menorah: Arts, Culture and Education at the Boulder JCC. The former film and theater critic for the Boulder Daily Camera, Kathryn is the author of "The Fifty Greatest Jewish Movies" and "The Fifty Funniest Films of All Time."

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