‘Sand Storm’ Wins Ophir Award, Becomes Israeli Oscar Entry

Drama set in Bedouin village is directed by Elite Zexer, the second woman to represent Israel at the Oscars in the last three years

Sand Storm
Courtesy of TIFF

“Sand Storm,” a drama by Elite Zexer set in a Bedouin village in southern Israel, has won the Ophir Award as the best Israeli film of 2016. It will represent the country in the foreign language race at the Academy Awards.

The film, which went into the Ophirs with more nominations than any other film, was competing against “One Week and a Day,” “Our Father,” “Beyond the Mountains and Hills” and “Through the Wall.”

“Sand Storm,” from a female director working with both Jewish and Arab crew members, explores women struggling in a patriarchal society. Its lead characters include a woman who must host a celebration as her husband takes a second, younger wife, and her daughter, who is carrying on a secret relationship with a boy at school.

Zexer is the second female director in the last three years to represent Israel at the Oscars, following the late Ronit Elkabetz, who co-directed “Gett, the Trial of Viviane Absalem” with her brother Shlomi.

While different countries have different ways of selecting their Oscar entries, Israel automatically sends the Ophir winner. The ceremony took place on Thursday.

Between 2007 and 2011, Israel had a string of three straight nominations, and four in five years, with “Beaufort,” “Waltz With Bashir,” “Ajami” and “Footnote.” But it has not been nominated since then.

Over the last 52 years of submissions, 10 Israeli films have been nominated for Oscars. None have won.