Israel’s “Footnote” makes Oscar shortlist

“Footnote,” Israel’s Oscar entry for best foreign-language film, has qualified for the shortlist of nine semi-finalists, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Wednesday.

The nine selected films, culled from submissions by 63 countries, will be winnowed down to five when final nominations in all categories are announced Jan. 24.

“Footnote,” directed and written by Joseph Cedar, centers on the rivalry between a father and son, both famous Talmudic scholars in Jerusalem.  In a phone call to his Tel Aviv home, the New York-born Cedar said, “I’m absolutely happy and relieved. Now I face another week of stress [until the five finalists are named], with all of Israel breathing down my neck.”

Cedar, 43, has made four feature movies in his 11-year career, and all were chosen as Israel’s entries in the Oscar competitions. In 2007, his war film “Beaufort” was among the five Academy Award finalists.  His toughest competition this year is likely to come from Iran’s “A Separation,” the critical favorite so far, Germany’s “Pina,” and Poland’s “In Darkness.”  The latter film, by Agnieszka Holland (“Europa, Europa”) follows the fate of a dozen Jewish men, women and children, who hid for 14 months in the underground sewers of Lvov during the Nazi occupation of Poland.

Also qualifying for the short list are Belgium’s “Bullhead,” Canada’s “Monsieur Lazhar,” Denmark’s “Superclasico,” Morocco’s “Omar Killed Me” and Taiwan’s “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale.”

Some early favorites didn’t make the cut, among them China’s “The Flowers of War,” Finland’s “Le Havre,” Lebanon’s “Where Do We Go Now?” and Mexico’s “Miss Bala.”

Oscar winners will be crowned Feb. 26 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.