Movie About Female Arab and Jewish City Workers Becomes Israel’s Oscar Entry

A scene from the trailer for “Cinema Sabaya.” Photo: YouTube screenshot.

An Israeli film about Arab and Jewish municipal workers who participate in a video workshop won best picture at Israel’s Ophir Awards on Sunday, automatically qualifying as the Jewish state’s selection for consideration for a nomination in the best international feature category at the Academy Awards.

In “Cinema Sabaya,” from filmmaker Orit Fouks Rotem, a group of female city workers take part in a video workshop, hosted by a young filmmaker, and document their lives. “With each raw homemade footage shot by the women and shared with the others, the group dynamic forces them to challenge their views and beliefs as they get to know each other and themselves better,” according to the film’s synopsis.

“I think that the film offers a rare glimpse to the hidden depths of the lives of Jewish and Palestinian women, where their central point of convergence, the most profound thing they had in common, is simply being a woman,” said Rotem. “This turned to be stronger than their religion or cultural world. I hope the film will offer an intimate and empowering conversation, not ignoring the different backgrounds, but rather proving that this does not provide an obstacle in creating deep connections and true friendships. Women who want their stories to be heard, but are scared, or are unable, to tell them in the first person. Therefore, this is a film that also deals with the power of cinema.”

“Cinema Sabaya” took home a total of five wins at the Ophir Awards, including best director for Rotem, best costume, best casting and best supporting actress for Joanna Said, who plays an Arab woman who wants to get a driver’s license and become independent of her husband. The film was also the winner of the best debut feature film award and the audience award at the 2021 Jerusalem Film Festival.

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September 19, 2022 1:39 pm

Watch the trailer for “Cinema Sabaya” below.

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