A Palestinian short film, "Ave Maria" is one of the 2016 Oscar nominees for Best Live Action Short Film, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced. The film explores a comedic look at an encounter between Palestinian nuns and a Jewish settler family in the West Bank, whose unexpected and challenging situation is wholly shaped by religious commitments and differences.
This 14-minute comedy is the first Arab cinematic film to compete for an Oscar in this category, according to Ahram online.
"Ave Maria" tells the tale of five Carmelite nuns from the Sisters of Mercy convent living in the West Bank, and a family of settlers whose car breaks down outside the nuns' convent. Because the family is religiously observant, they do not use a telephone on Shabbat and need the nuns to call for them for assistance. However, the nuns have taken a vow of silence. Together, the nuns and adults have to come up with an unorthodox plan to help get the family home.
The short stars Maria Zreik, Huda Al-Imam, Maya Koren, Shady Srour and Ruth Farhi.
The nomination is also a first for both the director, Basil Khalil, and producer, Eric Dupont, reports Haaretz.
The film, which already won top prizes at film festivals in Grenoble, Montpellier and Dubai, is one 10 finalists vying in its category at this year's Academy Awards, reports ScreenPicks.
Khalil told ScreenPicks he grew up in Nazareth, near a Carmelite convent. He said it was a massive palace of a building, with seven nuns who've taken a vow of silence. "It's like a fortress. What struck my curiosity was how do they live under these strict rules and the modern world. These nuns, some of them in their 70s and 80s, are still using rotary phones and have never heard of a fax machine yet. So that's what drew my attention."
"And then also being brought up as a Palestinian in Israel. Once you're born, you're instantly having to take sides - whatever religion you are," he said.
"You don't get to choose, and you have to live by those rules without even choosing them. I questioned the rules that were being imposed on you. It's my message."
The 2016 Oscars winners will be announced during the 88th Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 28.