FOOTNOTE is an appropriately titled sparklingly intelligent and entertaining film written and directed by Joseph Cedar. With a small cast and a focused story this little film form Israel is not only a pleasure to watch as a story performed as shared by brilliant actors, but it is also one of the most visually artistic and creative venture of cinematography to be on the small screen in a long time: the genius cinematographer is Yaron Scharf. Add to this a musical score that enhances every moment of the story - courtesy of composer Amit Poznansky - and the film simply succeeds on every level.
In a most ingenious way we are introduced to the two main characters - father and son, both professors in the Talmud department of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The film opens on the confused and somewhat unattached facial expression of the seated father Eliezer Shkolnik (Shlomo Bar Aba) as he listens to his ebullient son Uriel Shkolnik (Lior Ashkenazi) being inducted into the prestigious Israeli academic union. Uriel's acceptance speech reflects his childhood when his father informed him upon questioning that he was a `teacher' - an occupation the young Uriel found embarrassing at the time, but now honors his father for this guidance. After the ceremony we slowly discover that there is a long-standing rivalry between father and son. Uriel has an addictive dependency on the embrace and accolades that the establishment provides, while Eliezer is a stubborn purist with a fear and profound revulsion for what the establishment stands for, yet beneath his contempt lies a desperate thirst for some kind of recognition: his only clam to fame after long years of intensive research is that the man who published his findings mentions Eliezer in a footnote. When it comes times for the Israel Prize, Israel's most prestigious national award, to be awarded, a clerical error results in a telephone call informing Eliezer that he has won, while in reality the award was meant for his son Uriel. How this error is resolved open all manner of windows for examining family relationships, fame, pure academia, and forgiveness.
The film is an unqualified success. Lior Ashkenazi (so well remembered from `Walk on Water' and `Late Marriage' among others) gives a bravura performance and that of Shlomo Ben Aba balances it in quality. The supporting cast is strong. Joseph Cedar has produced a fine film very much enhanced by the brilliance of the cinematography that tells the story as much as the dialogue. Grady Harp, August 12