The story of a great rivalry between a father and son, both eccentric professors in the Talmud department of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The son has an addictive dependency on the embrace and accolades that the establishment provides, while his father 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. The Israel Prize, Israel's most prestigious national award, is the jewel that brings these two to a final, bitter confrontation.


Joseph Cedar


Shlomo Bar-Aba
as Eliezer Shkolnik
Lior Ashkenazi
as Uriel Shkolnik
Aliza Rosen
as Yehudit Shkolnik
Yuval Scharf
as Noa the reporter
Alma Zak
as Dikla Shkolnik
Daniel Markovich
as Josh Shkolnik
Micah Lewesohn
as Yehuda Grossman

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by ferguson-6 8 /10

Family Fortress

Greetings again from the darkness. In the United States, we typically get limited access to the films of Israel. In recent years, there have been two that I like very much: The Band's Visit, and Waltz for Bashir. Written and directed by Joseph Cedar, Footnote was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Academy Award. It's a very creative and insightful story utilizing slight comedic elements to show the destructive forces of petty professional jealousy within a family.

Most parents wish for true happiness for their children. If the professional success of their offspring far exceeds their own ... it is a reason to swell with parental pride. But what happens when father and son choose similar paths? What happens when animosity builds as the father's life work (30 years of research) is deemed unnecessary and irrelevant? What happens when the son becomes publicly revered and adored for his populist writing? Well, in the case of father Eliezer (Shlomo Bar-Aba) and son Uriel (Lior Ashkenazi), we get strained relations and a thesis on the pitfalls of pride and ego.

All of that is sufficiently fascinating for a story, but here we get an even more severe test of human nature. The father is erroneously informed that he has won the prestigious Israel Award, providing vindication and meaning to his work and well, his being. See, the award was supposed to go to the other Professor Shkolnik ... yes, his son. This much is shown in the trailer, but the true guts of this story is what happens after this mistake.

There are a few tremendous scenes in the film, but two really jumped out for me. In an early scene, the son is receiving yet another reward and he is attempting to provide some credit for his father's inspiration. However, the words seem to add credence to the irrelevancy instead. The best part? The camera never leaves the face of the father and he sits quietly listening in immeasurable pain. The other scene takes place in a beyond cramped meeting room for the Award committee to discuss the mistake with Uriel. The manner it is filmed and the choreography more than make up for the fact that the group of brilliant people never thought to find a more suitable meeting place.

The score of the film is one that I would appreciate more without having the film playing. The music is wonderful, but often distracting to the moment. It is interesting to note how it changes along with the posture and walking pace of Eliezer after he is informed of his award. One need not be an academic researcher or writer to understand the damaged relationship between father and son ... and how it has impacted wives, mothers and sons. That's a story that is painful in any language.

Reviewed by drew-288-135826 8 /10

Two great lead performances that couldn't be any more different.

Footnote, one of the five nominees for Best Foreign Language films at the Oscars earlier this year, boasts two extraordinary performances. And it's absolutely vital that those two performances are pitch perfect, because the key to the film's drama and tension lies in those particular characters.

The premise is fairly straightforward. A father and son are both philogy professors at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Eliezer Shkolnik is an old school researcher who believes findings are only valid if research is conducted in the proper scientific method, while his son, Uriel, follows the more modern philosophy. Eliezer loathes the popularity and acceptance of the current methods, and is so stubborn he even refuses to cancel one of his classes even though only one student is signed.

Having background on research methods or philology is not necessary however, when it comes to following along the movie. Shlomo Bar'aba and Lior Ashkenazi, as Eliezer and Uriel respectively, both make sure to humanize their characters and portray their conflicting ideals by showcasing conflicting personalities as wells.

The plot gets really interesting when Eliezer finds out he has been voted the winner of the Israel Prize, forcing him to rethink how he feels his colleagues, and the field in general. However, Uriel soon gets a phone call that will shake things up even more.

Unfortunately, Footnote does not deliver a satisfying conclusion, at least not a memorable one. The tension is slowly built up really well as the film cuts deeper into the plot, yet when the time comes for a huge clash, the film ends up kinds of just floating around not knowing the right time to fade out. However, the meat of the film is too good to be ignored, as both Bar'aba and Ashkenazi deliver performances you won't soon forget.

Reviewed by Turfseer 7 /10

Enormously clever depiction of rivalry between father-son Talmudic scholars despite heavy-handed ending

'Footnote' is an enormously clever film by an American born Israeli filmmaker, Joseph Cedar. It concerns the rivalry between father-son Talmudic scholars, Eliezer and Uriel Shkolnik. Before seeing the film, I assumed that this was going to be a film about insular Hasidics, chronicling the rivalry between Talmudic scholars in an ultra-religious community. However, that's not the case at all; we soon learn that the two principals are actually academics in the Talmudic department at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Uriel can best be described as either a Conservative or Modern Orthodox Jew and Eliezer, seemingly completely secular (as he does not wear a yarmulke).

Utilizing inter-titles, cross-cutting and an intrusive musical score (that some have compared to Shostakovich), Cedar offers up an amusing back story for both father and son, during the first ten minutes of the film. We learn that Eliezer has been toiling in obscurity at the University, engaging in arcane research that few care about and teaching one class a year in which only one student attends. In contrast, Uriel heads the Department and is insanely popular with the student body and the community at large. Eliezer's problem with his son is that he deems his research as bogus—that he's only interested in providing modern interpretations of serious Talmudic passages (familial relations in ancient times is one research area that Uriel has garnered accolades for, which his father regards as a joke).

There's much more about Eliezer that comes to light that places him firmly in the camp of the confirmed curmudgeon. His grand claim to fame is that he's mentioned in a footnote in the work of a famed Talmudic scholar, Feinberg, who Eliezer regards as his mentor. Eliezer also spent years interpreting more recent texts to reconstruct a lost manuscript from the Middle Ages. When a rival scholar, Grossman, found the original manuscript, he refused to share it with Eliezer and published his own findings, thus extirpating years of Eliezer's work, now deemed irrelevant by the Talmudic academic community. All this has made the curmudgeon bitter, magnified of course by the community's acclaim for the ever popular son. Nonetheless, the humor stems from Eliezer's perseverance in the face of total ostracism, despite his complete lack of social skills and mean-spirited demeanor.

If Eliezer's narcissism is a tad bit psychotic, Uriel's can best be described as a lesser neuroticism. His colleagues at the University make it clear (while talking amongst themselves) that Uriel needs constant stroking and any kind of dissent will result in retaliation on his part. Nonetheless, Uriel shows depth of character in the film's defining moment. That occurs when the prestigious 'Israel Prize' is awarded to Eliezer instead of Uriel, due to a clerical error. In a very amusing scene, a committee at the Ministry of Education meets in an extremely small file room with Uriel in order to maintain secrecy, explain their 'mistake' and request that he inform his father of what has transpired.

Despite all of the Eliezer's jealousy and contempt for his son, Uriel defends the father in front of Grossman (who is head of the Prize committee) and who insists that the award must be rescinded and given to the true intended recipient (Uriel). Things get so heated that Uriel punches Grossman in the nose but then apologizes. Eventually Grossman caves in but with two demands: Uriel must write the judge's considerations and never accept the award for himself, ever again.

The emerging scenes are perhaps the best in the film. While writing the judge's considerations, Uriel keeps amending his text, and upon further reflection, realizes Grossman was right about his father all along—that he really is a mediocrity and doesn't deserve the prize. Eliezer, who regards himself as a philologist, ironically shows his mettle by realizing (utilizing his text investigatory skills) that Uriel was responsible for composing the 'judge's considerations'. Eliezer finally recalls the original conversation in its entirety, where he believed he had been awarded the Israel Prize; with his memory clearer, he finally figures it out: the prize was obviously intended for Uriel and not him!

While Cedar utilizes a comic tone for most of the film, the denouement unfortunately veers toward melodrama in the closing sequences. This can be seen when Uriel grows sour on the idea that he's been cheated out of the Israel Prize, and takes it out on his teenage son, who he demands to make something of his life. Cedar does nothing to develop the teenage son's character and Uriel's sudden transformation into a sour puss (just like this father), does much to ruin the clever humor of the earlier scenes.

While Eliezer wasn't much of a likable character to begin with, you could at least laugh at him for most of the film. But when he realizes (through his true philological talents) that the Israel Prize was not meant for him, he's poised to accept the Award, as a last, petty, spiteful act toward his son. What we needed there was some kind of twist. Perhaps either Eliezer's (underutilized) wife could have stepped in or both the wives could have come up with some kind of plan to 'save the day'. The way it stands now, Eliezer's 'victory' is a Pyrrhic one, and the estrangement between the father and son, is worse than when we saw them at the beginning of the film.

Despite the heavy-handed ending, I enjoyed 'Footnote'. It not only ridicules the pettiness found in academia but goes deeper by exposing the narcissism in familial relations. The conflict between Talmudic scholars is not an easy topic to be made into a full-length film. Cedar has for a good part of his film, delivered a most clever and eye-popping experience.

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