Winner of the Best Screenplay Award in Cannes 2011 and Israel’s entry for Best Foreign Film at the 2012 Academy Awards, Joseph Cedar’s Footnote (Hearat Shulayim) is tightly focused on the internal experience of the morose scholar Eliezer (Shlomo Bar Aba). He has dedicated his life to a philological study of medieval Talmudic manuscripts aiming to prove that another, more authentic version of the “Jerusalem Bible” once existed, only to have his work rendered useless when his academic rival, Yehuda (Micah Lewesohn), found the original manuscript in an archive. Now Eliezer’s only claim to fame is a mention in a footnote (“The only living scholar mentioned by name!”). He has mixed feelings that his son, Uriel (Lior Ashkenazi), also a Talmudic scholar, has received more recognition, for his analysis of medieval marriage practices and his crowd-pleasing lectures. Opening in select theaters on 9 March, the movie is traditional in more senses than one. Yet it doesn’t mention that most controversies related to the Israel Prize have to do not with its scholarly judgments, but with its political contexts. Many potential recipients, such as philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz, were denied or had to decline the prize because of their sympathy for Palestinians. Hearat Shulayim‘s consideration of Jewish intellectual debates brackets that larger issue, but it is difficult to edit out entirely.
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