Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev has welcomed the failure of her country’s controversial candidate for the Oscars to win a nomination, having called the film “Foxtrot” an insult to the military.
“I think the decision saved us from bitter disappointment and prevented an untruthful worldwide representation of the Israeli army,” she told army radio on Tuesday evening after the announcement of nominees.
The surreal and complex “Foxtrot” by director Samuel Maoz won Israel’s best film award in September, making it the country’s pick for the Academy Awards.
But with its occasionally harsh view of the Israeli military it brought down the wrath of right-wing firebrand Regev, despite winning the Grand Jury prize at the Venice Film Festival.
A record 92 countries submitted films for the best foreign-language Oscar and “Foxtrot” failed to make the final five nominee list.
Regev, who acknowledges not having seen Foxtrot, says her ire is not based on artistic criteria but on Israel’s image abroad.
“A film which shows Israeli army soldiers in a deceptive manner as murderers and harms the good name of the Israel Defence Forces is not fitting to represent Israel,” she said.
Regev, who belongs to what is seen as Israel’s most right-wing government ever, is no stranger to controversy and has repeatedly clashed with the largely left-leaning cultural elite.
They have accused her of seeking to muzzle them, including by promoting a bill to cut subsidies to cultural institutions deemed not “loyal” to the state.
She was not invited to September’s Ophir Awards — Israel’s version of the Oscars — where “Foxtrot” won the best picture prize.
She instead appeared live on her Facebook page to criticise the movie and members of Israel’s Film and Television Academy.
In 2016 she was booed on arrival at a cultural conference and hit back from the podium.
“As the famous Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu once said: ‘Cut the bullshit,'” she snapped.
She raised hackles earlier this week after posting a video clip of herself with supporters of Beitar Jerusalem football club at a game against an Arab team where Beitar fans reportedly were singing “torch their village”.
Beitar, the only team in the Israeli league that has never had an Arab Muslim player, is known for its anti-Arab chants and often violent ultra-nationalist Jewish fans.
Regev said that from where she stood at Monday’s game against Sakhnin it was impossible to make out anything beyond what was said by those immediately next to her and she heard no offensives remarks.
“I didn’t hear what was sung,” she said in the army radio interview.
“There were thousands of people there. I only heard those who were next to me who didn’t do anything (wrong).”