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Foxtrot

Israel's Official Selection for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar

To give away too many of Foxtrot’s surprises (and there are some massive ones) would be unfair, but in brief, the Silver Lion winner at Venice has a three-part structure. In the arresting opening shot, Daphna Feldman (Sarah Adler) opens the front door of her apartment and immediately faints. She’s seen a group of soldiers from the Israeli Defence Forces, and that can only mean one thing: her teenage son Jonathan (Yonatan Shiray) has been killed in action. While his wife is sedated, Daphna’s husband Michael (Lior Ashkenazi) is officially given the bad news. Shattered, he begins the grieving process by kicking the family dog, before heading off to tell his dementia-suffering mother.

Poster for the Israeli anti-war drama FoxtrotIn the second strand, we move somewhere to the north of Israel, where Jonathan is serving with three other young men on a roadblock. The container in which they live is slowly sinking into the dirt, and their days are pretty tedious: more often than not, they only have to raise the barrier for passing camels.

And in the third and final strand, we return to Michael and Daphna a year or so later, the stress of their ordeal having firmly taken its toll on their marriage.

Unlike Lebanon, Samuel Maoz’s first film, a gripping war drama which was intense, documentary-like and claustrophobic, Foxtrot is an absurdist, modernist picture, half blackly comic, half shocking. Maoz plays fascinatingly with form and some of the most striking imagery of the year is found in the film, from a repeated shot of circling birds to a glimpse of a toy robot setting down the long, empty road that the young soldiers guard.

And yet Foxtrot is recognizably from the same filmmaker. It obviously shares the subject of Israeli men serving in the armed forces. But it also shares a frustration at the futility of the endless conflict, and the men and women lost to it on both sides.
And while it’s undeniably an anti-war movie and a political one, more than anything it is about grief and the cruelty of fate. The film explores its themes with humanity and compassion, swinging between absurdist humour and gut-punch sadness in a way that’s rare and, at times, truly profound.

– Oliver Lyttelton, The Playlist

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