Commendations for Footnote at APSA

November 24, 2012 by J-Wire Staff
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The lead actor and writer of the Israeli film “Footnote” have been awarded High Commendations at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards  held last night on the Gold Coast.

The film, known is Ivrit as Hearat Shulayim won commendations for actor Lior Ashkenazi and writer Joseph Cedar.

Lior Ashkenazi at the awards      Photo: Chris Hyde

Eliezer Shkolnik (Shlomo Bar Aba) is a philologist who researches the different versions and phrasings of the Jerusalem Talmud. He and his son Uriel (Lior Ashkenazi) are both professors at the Talmudic Research department of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Uriel, a young charismatic academic, is extremely popular in his sessions with the department’s students and the general public, and is also recognized by the establishment when he is elected member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. The father, on the other hand, is a stubborn old-school purist in his research methods. He is unpopular, unrecognized, and frustrated by his would-be lifetime research achievement having gone unfulfilled, as a rival scholar, Prof. Yehuda Grossman (Micah Lewensohn), published similar results one month ahead of Eliezer. Eliezer is also highly critical of the new methods of research used by his son and other modern researchers, as he considers them feather-light and superficial. His greatest ambition is to be recognized by being awarded the Israel Prize, but he is bitterly disappointed every year when he does not win it. His stubborn nature and lack of recognition have made him bitter and anti-social, and envious of his son’s popularity.

During his routine afternoon walk from the National Library back to his Rehavia home, Eliezer receives a phone call from the Minister of Education. She tells Eliezer that he was elected this year’s laureate of the Israel Prize, and congratulates him.

The following day Uriel is summoned to an urgent meeting with the Israel Prize committee. In the meeting Uriel is told that a grave error had occurred, and that in fact it was he, not his father, who was elected laureate of the Israel Prize. The committee wishes to discuss ways to correct the error, but Uriel objects, saying that the revelation would devastate his father. Uriel and the head of the committee, Eliezer’s rival Professor Grossman, argue bitterly over the issue, until Uriel loses his temper and punches Grossman. Regretting his outburst, Uriel relents, but asks that he break the news to his father personally. The committee grants him that. We here discover that not only has Uriel been submitting his father’s name for the Israel Prize every year, but that Grossman has been vetoing it every time. According to Grossman, Eliezer never published anything significant in his career, and his only claim to fame is being mentioned as a footnote in the work of a more famous scholar.

Uriel goes to the National Library to break the news to his father, but finds him raising a toast to winning the prize with colleagues, a toast which he reluctantly joins. Unable to break the news, he once again meets with Grossman, asking that the prize be given to Eliezer nonetheless. Grossman eventually relents, but with two conditions: one – that Uriel would write the committee’s recommendation, and Grossman would only sign it; and two – that Uriel himself would never be a candidate for the Israel Prize. Though horrified by the second condition, Uriel agrees.

Uriel writes the recommendation text on his word processor, debating its phrasing with himself, picking and choosing every word carefully; at the same time Eliezer, finally recognized, is interviewed by the newspaper Haaretz, during which he denounces the scientific and academic validity of his son’s research.

When the interview is published, Uriel initially takes the punch and keeps his secret. Later, unable to endure the insult any longer, he whispers the secret to his mother, Yehudit, revealing the error.

During preparations for a television interview, Eliezer is dumbfounded by a word in the Israel Prize committee’s recommendation. He flees the television studio and returns to his study. As a philologist, he examines the word, cross-checking its published uses, and realizes that the text must have actually been written by his son. In his memory he reconstructs his phone conversation with the Minister of Education, realizing she had addressed him by his last name only. He concludes that the minister thought she was talking to his son, not to him, when she broke the news about the Israel Prize.

On the day of the prize ceremony, Eliezer and Yehudit arrive at the Jerusalem International Convention Center to prepare for the ceremony, with each knowing Eliezer’s prize is based on an error, but not discussing it; Eliezer is excited but also highly stressed, and perhaps devastated. The movie ends a moment before the laureates are called to the stage. It therefore remains unknown whether Eliezer actually received the prize, knowing it was based on an error, or eventually declined it.

Watch the trailer…

 

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