“Cinema Sabaya” may be heading to the Academy Awards and is definitely heading to North America. A press release announced that Kino Lorber has acquired North American rights to Orit Fouks Rotem’s award-winning feature debut, Israel’s submission to the 2023 International Feature Oscar race. Described as a “richly textured portrait of a group of Arab and Israeli women taking part in a documentary filmmaking workshop,” “Cinema Sabaya” is slated for a 2023 theatrical release with a digital and home video release to follow.
“Cinema Sabaya” is inspired by Rotem’s own experience “teaching filmmaking to groups of women in Acre and Givat Haviva in Northern Israel,” per the release. “Eight women, Arab and Jewish, take part in a video workshop at a local community center directed by a young filmmaker named Rona (Dana Ivgy), who puts cameras into the women’s hands and teaches them how to document their lives. The women form a mosaic of contemporary Israeli society, ranging from a devout Muslim mother to a single Jewish woman who lives on a boat. Embracing the workshop’s challenge, the women begin filming their daily activities and routines, capturing the dilemmas and triumphs that occupy their lives: motherhood, discrimination, financial freedom, self-realization, and more. As the women share their footage with one another, barriers are broken down, beliefs are challenged, and the women learn about each other, and themselves.”
The drama made its world premiere at the Jerusalem International Film Festival, where it took home Best First Feature and Audience Awards. It’s gone on to screen at AFI Fest and Zurich Film Festival, among other fests.
“At its core, ‘Cinema Sabaya’ is about the power of cinema: to change people’s lives, to give women a voice, and to break down cultural barriers. We are delighted to be able to invite audiences in the U.S. and Canada to join these women on their intimate, soul-searching journey,” said Kino Lorber SVP Wendy Lidell.
Rotem added, “I’m so excited to collaborate with Kino Lorber on my first film, ‘Cinema Sabaya.’ I’ve long admired their work on so many daring, thought-provoking films, and it’s a great honor for me to partner with them for my own film.”
Other women-directed offering vying for a nom in the International Feature category include Alice Diop’s “Saint Omer,” a drama about a writer who attends the trial of a woman accused of infanticide, and Carla Simon’s “Alcarràs,” a portrait of a family of peach farmers. The former is representing France and the latter Spain.
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