Director rejects Israel link before Oscars

Sun Mar 7, 2010 9:49am EST
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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The Israeli-Arab co-director of "Ajami," an Oscar-nominated foreign language film, said on Sunday he should not be seen as representing Israel -- "a country that doesn't represent me" -- at the Academy Awards.

Scandar Copti's remarks, in an interview from Los Angeles with Israel Radio, were condemned by Israel's culture minister, who said she was saddened that a film-maker who accepted government funds for the movie was criticizing his country.

"The movie technically represents Israel," Copti said. "I don't represent Israel. I am an Israeli citizen but I cannot represent a country that doesn't represent me."

His comments echoed complaints by many Arab citizens, who make up a fifth of Israel's population, that they suffer discrimination particularly in funding.

"Ajami," a tale of crime and violence set in a largely Arab populated slum in Jaffa, part of Tel Aviv, is Israel's third consecutive film to be nominated for a foreign language Oscar since 2007.

Copti directed the film with Jewish-Israeli Yaron Shani.

(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Louise Ireland)

<p>Directors Yaron Shani (L) and Scandar Copti of the Israel film "Ajami," nominated for best foreign language film, pose for photographers ahead of the 82nd Academy Awards in Hollywood, March 5, 2010. REUTERS/Phil McCarten</p>