Israeli director wins Academy Award for Best Short Film
Guy Nattiv and his wife, actress Jaime Ray Newman, take home the Oscar for 'Skin.'
Israeli director Guy Nattiv won an Academy Award Sunday night for his Live-Action Short Film "Skin." The win was made all the more special for the 45-year-old Tel Aviv native because he won the Oscar with his wife, American actress Jaime Ray Newman, who served as a producer on the film.
"I moved here five years ago from Israel," a stunned Nattiv told the crowd at the Dolby Theatre. "This film is about education. It's about teaching your kids a better way."
Added Newman, who joined him on stage: "We dedicate this to our 5-month-old baby who's sitting at home with my parents watching this. We hope that you grow up in a world where these things don't happen because people learn to love and accept each other."
Despite this being Nattiv's first Oscar nomination, he was the odds-on favorite walking into the awards in Los Angeles: both The Hollywood Reporter and The New York Times predicted he would win. Variety magazine called Nattiv an "undeniably gifted filmmaker" and said the short film was a "stunner."
Nattiv and Newman – who together run the New Native Pictures production company – have been promoting the movie non-stop since the nominations were announced on January 22.
They've been attending screenings of the film, fielding interviews and meeting their fellow Oscar nominees. Lady Gaga and Spike Lee have offered them advice. They, along with their daughter Alma, had been prepping all day. Nattiv's brother Gil flew in from Israel for the big night. The film's co-writer, fellow Israeli Sharon Maymon, joined them on stage when they won.
"Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that this little short film we made, literally in our garage, would be seen by so many people around the world," Newman told us. "It just goes to show you, focus on your art and do what you think is important and all the rest will fall into place."
Nattiv joins a small class of fellow Israelis who have won Oscars – although several have been nominated, including producer Arnon Milchan for "The Revenant" and "L.A. Confidential," and who also served as a producer on this year's nominated "Bohemian Rhapsody." The Jerusalem-born Natalie Portman has been nominated multiple times and won for her role as a ballet dancer in 2011's "Black Swan." (The actress walked away with more than just an Academy Award for that role; she met her future husband on the set.) Israeli filmmaker Moshe Mizrahi, the country’s only director of an Oscar-winning film, passed away this past summer.
David Gidali is a fellow Israeli director who specializes in short films. "I'm so happy for Guy," he told From The Grapevine. "I still vividly remember 'Strangers,' his short from 2003 which also dealt with prejudice and racism. I believe that making a short film that's impactful enough to pierce through the noise and win an Academy Award is possibly even more challenging than doing the same with a feature film. Short films impose strong creative limitations, and succeeding that format is an incredible feat."
Due to the success of the short film, the couple was able to make a feature-length version. It stars Vera Farmiga, Jamie Bell and Danielle Macdonald from the hit Netflix movie "Dumplin." Sting's wife, Trudie Styler, is a producer on the film. The feature-length version premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, where it won the prestigious Fipresci Prize, an award given by the International Federation of Film Critics. The Hollywood Reporter called Bell's performance "moving" and "powerful." That version is expected to arrive in theaters this August.
Nattiv's next project will be a movie based on the life of his grandmother, a World War II survivor, who ended up as part of a cult in Virginia. "It's about the pursuit of happiness at all costs," he told us. He plans to start filming it later this year.
In the meantime, Fox Searchlight has acquired the "Skin" short film and plans to make it available for streaming online. It is already available for purchase on the iTunes store. You can watch the trailer below:
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