Op-Ed by Jessica Horst
Israel celebrates this week the Oscar win by Israeli filmmaker Guy Nattiv and Jewish actress Jaime Ray Newman for best live action short film awarded for their production of the English-language biodrama, “Skin.”
This 20-minute drama tells the story of a gang war in a small town that breaks out after a black man smiles at a white child at a supermarket. A harmless interaction quickly sends two gangs into a violent fight that ends with shocking backlash.
“I moved here five years ago from Israel,” Nattiv began his acceptance speech, and added in a Hebrew shout-out to his homeland, “Good night, Israel,” before continuing. “My grandparents are Holocaust survivors, you know, the bigotry that they experienced in the Holocaust, we see that everywhere today, in America, in Europe,” said Nattiv, “This film is about education, about teaching your kids a better way.”
"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,” Newman said when she accepted her award for the short film. Nattiv wrote “Skin” with Israeli Screenwriter Sharon Maymon and co-produced the film actress Jaime Ray Newman, also his wife.
When the award was announced, Nattiv jumped up in shocked and spun Newman in a laughing embrace before accepting their award. "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 From the Grapvine, "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."
In an interview with KAN, Nattiv said the win was a win for Israelis. “Israel - This is for you,” Nattiv said, “This film was made by Israelis, and its message is for Israel and also for the United States, against racism.” Newman added, “it’s for the whole world.”
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Monday said, ““Congratulations to Guy Nattiv on his Oscar win for the best short film,” Rivlin said. “All of the good words about Skin are for you, for Sharon and for Jamie Ray, but the film is a gift for our children and grandchildren, and for the future that we want for them so they can fulfill their dreams. Proud to be Israeli. Mazel tov!”
“This win is another story of the success of Israeli cinema,” congratulated Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev. “Nattiv grew up in our country, the son of Holocaust survivors. Nattiv’s win, for a film about hatred and racism, is an important cinematic chapter in the uncompromising struggle against those who choose racism as their way of life. I congratulate Guy and all those who were partners in his film.” Regev also added that she would be thrilled if he would return to Israel to make his next film.
The short film stars: Jamie Bell from “Defiance” and “Billy Elliot,” Vera Farmiga from “Up in the Air,” and Danielle Macdonald from “Dumplin’” and “Patticakes,” Jason Tucker from “Parenthood,” and Jackson Robert Scott from “It.”
Due to the film’s early success, Nattiv and Newman were also able to make a feature-length version that again stars Vera Farmiga, Jamie Bell, and Danielle Macdonald. This version premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and won the prestigious International Federation of Film Critics Fipresci Prize, and is expected to arrive in theaters in August, 2019.
The Nattiv said his next project will be a movie based on the life of his grandmother, a World War II Holocaust survivor, who ended up as part of a cult in Virginia. “It’s all about the pursuit of happiness at all costs,” Nattiv told From the Grapevine, and filming is anticipated to begin later this year. Recently acquired by Fox Searchlight, the “Skin” short film will soon be available for streaming online, and is already available for purchase on the iTunes store.