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Oscar-Nominated Film Screened at YU Film Festival; Director Participates in Q &A

On February 16, Yeshiva University hosted a special screening of “Footnote,” the thought-provoking Israeli film that has created so much Oscar buzz, followed by a rare behind-the-scenes discussion with director Joseph Cedar.

Goldman and Cedar

"Footnote" Director Joseph Cedar, at right, with Dr. Eric Goldman, answered questions from the audience following the Feb. 16 screening.

The film, scheduled for theatrical release in mid-March, explores the lives of father and son Talmudic scholars who find themselves in competition with each other. It won “Best Screenplay” at Cannes, “Best Picture” at the Ophir Awards and is nominated for “Best Foreign Language Film” at this year’s Academy Awards.

“It’s an incredible privilege to have a screening of the film before it opens in theaters,” said Dr. Eric Goldman, adjunct associate professor of cinema at Yeshiva and Stern College and artistic director of the festival. “Joseph Cedar is in the mold of our students—a practicing Jew interested in blending Torah and Madda in his life. He mixes Torah, his traditional community, and culture in his life’s work as a filmmaker.”

Members of the YU community flooded the Beren Campus’s Schottenstein Cultural Center for a sneak preview of the movie as part of the YU Ring Family Film Festival, titled “A Lens on Israel: A Society through its Cinema.” The four-part festival is supplemented by a variety of lectures, workshops and open forums with leading Israeli actors, writers, producers and directors.

After the screening of “Footnote,” Cedar joined Goldman onstage for a frank question-and-answer session with the audience. Cedar shared his inspiration for the film and addressed curiosity about the characters’ resemblance to real people. He also spoke about his own relationship with the sacred text at the heart of “Footnote” and its influence on his writing process.

Joseph Cedar

Cedar's "Footnote" is nominated for "Best Foreign Language Film" at the upcoming Academy Awards.

“The value of argument is what drives all the dialogue in the Talmud,” said Cedar. “From a dramatic point of view, that’s also what drives any story. The idea is that the direction is not necessarily towards resolving conflict, but deepening it, and using any kind of argument to crystallize the subject on which we’re arguing is a style and a thinking process I’ve adopted as a storyteller.”

Estee Goldschmidt ’11S, a second-year medieval Jewish history student at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Judaic Studies, came to the film with her Talmud class, taught by Dr. Yaakov Elman. “Academic Talmud has this idea that it’s the unbiased and most rational and honest approach to Talmud and this movie really turns that perception of academia on its head,” she said. Goldschmidt found the conversation with Cedar especially illuminating: “It was like being there while the film was being made.”

“This movie encapsulates what a Jewish-Israeli film should be,” said Dr. Norman Adler, University professor of psychology and special assistant to the provost for cultural affairs. “The multilayered story touches on tradition and modernity and filial piety versus intergenerational conflict and questions how we approach our traditional texts in this post-modern age. The tension and dialectic, crafted into great art, helps all of us—especially our students, who are grappling with these questions—to see the world through the lens of a brilliant creative artist.”