Academy Award Nomination 2012: Best Foreign Language Film
Best Screenplay: Cannes Film Festival
Israeli Film Academy: 9 awards including Best Picture, Actor, Screenplay
“What happens is a series of events involving academic scholarship, familial jealousy and pride, stubbornness and poetic justice. All of these things come together wonderfully, and are so subtle that only the father and the son will completely understand them. Perfect.”—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
“Footnote is a completely absorbing film that draws you into the lives of its characters and even builds suspense as to how their dilemma will be resolved. With a deep reserve of irony and wit, the filmmaker and his actors envelop us completely.”—Leonard Maltin, Movie Crazy
“Throughout, the ensemble cast is superb, and the dual portrait of domestic and academic life, each with its rivalries and jealousies and betrayals and loyalties, is crisply etched.”—Rick Groen, The Globe and Mail
On the surface, a comedy set in the Israeli academic world of Talmudic scholarship would hardly suggest broad appeal but surprisingly “Footnote” brims with universal themes, Director Joseph Cedar’s droll film uses professional rivalries and a father-son conflict to comment on the quirks and foibles of human nature, leavened with deft applications of dry slapstick. One doesn’t have to be Jewish or work in a university to understand or fully enjoy that.
Talmudic scholar Prof. Eliezer Shkolnik (Shlomo Bar-Aba) has toiled without trumpets for decades on his arcane comparisons of sacred texts, gaining little more than a footnote’s worth of recognition. But that footnote came from a revered authority, no small matter.
Shkolnik’s hotshot son Uriel (Lior Ashkenazi), meanwhile, has been knocking out award-winning books on more accessible aspects of Talmudic scholarship. Both men teach at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, but Uriel gets all the accolades.
Papa Shkolnik does himself no favours with his perpetually—and laughably---resentful attitude; he literally shuts himself off from the world and his family by wearing noise-blocking headphones as he toils in his dusty study. He is a man without compromise, but also without contentment.
He’s also, fatefully, a guy who doesn’t know how to quit when he’s ahead.
Eliezer deserves more than a footnote’s worth of sympathy, however. Years ago, a competing Talmudic scholar upstaged him on a critical discovery and he’s been rubbing it in ever since.
The situation seems about to change as the country’s culture minister delivers miraculous news about the prestigious Israel Prize that Eliezer Shkolnik has long sought.
Alas, there’s nothing simple about this announcement, as egos, family tensions, and conflicting notions of truth and integrity collide.
Director Cedar is marvelously attuned to life’s little insanities, as observed in one scene when as members of an awards committee find themselves jammed into an office the size of a broom closet. And Papa Shkolnik has unfortunate luck with omniscient security guards. These are just a couple of many little absurdities and moments of deadpan slapstick that combine to make “Footnote” an understated pleasure.