Kino Lorber Acquires North American Rights to Israeli Oscar Entry 'Cinema Sabaya'

By Kino Lorber | October 31, 2022
Kino Lorber Acquires North American Rights to Israeli Oscar Entry 'Cinema Sabaya'

Israeli Submission for the 95th Academy Awards Will Open Theatrically in Early 2023

Winner of 5 Ophir Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director


Kino Lorber announced that it has acquired North American distribution rights to Orit Fouks Rotem’s nuanced and absorbing debut Cinema Sabaya, Israel’s official entry to the 95th Academy Awards. A richly textured portrait of a group of Arab and Israeli women taking part in a documentary filmmaking workshop, Cinema Sabaya will be released theatrically by Kino Lorber in early 2023, followed by digital and home video release. 

The debut feature by writer/director Orit Fouks Rotem following her award-winning short films Veil, Voice Over, and Staring Match, Cinema Sabaya grew from Rotem’s own personal experience teaching filmmaking to groups of women in Acre and Givat Haviva in Northern Israel. The film made its world premiere at the Jerusalem International Film Festival, where it won the Best First Feature and Audience Awards, received a Special Mention and the NETPAC Award at the Warsaw Film Festival, and has also screened at AFI Fest, the Chicago International Film Festival, and the Zurich Film Festival. 

Cinema Sabaya received five awards at the Israeli Academy of Film and Television’s Ophir Awards, which determine the Israeli entry for the Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress for Joanna Said. Cinema Sabaya stars Dana Ivgy (Zero Motivation), Marlene Bajali, Amal Murkus, Joanna Said, Ruth Landau, Yulia Tagil, Orit Samuel, Aseel Farhat, Liora Levi, and Khawlah Hag-Debsy.

Eight women, Arab and Jewish, take part in a video workshop at a local community center directed by a young filmmaker named Rona (Dana Ivgy), who puts cameras into the women’s hands and teaches them how to document their lives. The women form a mosaic of contemporary Israeli society, ranging from a devout Muslim mother to a single Jewish woman who lives on a boat. Embracing the workshop’s challenge, the women begin filming their daily activities and routines, capturing the dilemmas and triumphs that occupy their lives: motherhood, discrimination, financial freedom, self-realization, and more. As the women share their footage with one another, barriers are broken down, beliefs are challenged, and the women learn about each other, and themselves.

The deal for Cinema Sabaya was negotiated by Kino Lorber Senior Vice President Wendy Lidell and Mathieu Delaunay, Head of Sales for Memento International.

“At its core, Cinema Sabaya is about the power of cinema: to change people’s lives, to give women a voice, and to break down cultural barriers. We are delighted to be able to invite audiences in the US and Canada to join these women on their intimate, soul-searching journey,” said Kino Lorber SVP Wendy Lidell.

I'm so excited to collaborate with Kino Lorber on my first film, Cinema Sabaya,” said director Orit Fouks Rotem. “I’ve long admired their work on so many daring, thought-provoking films, and it’s a great honor for me to partner with them for my own film.” 

Cinema Sabaya was produced in Israel by Gal Greenspan, Roi Kurland, and Maya Fischer from Green Productions (Saving Shuli, Scaffolding, One on One, Menashe). The film was co-produced by Belgium’s Neon Rouge, and made with the support of Israeli Film Fund, Wallonia-Brussels Federation, The Weil-Bloch Foundation, The New Fund for Cinema and Television, Israel Film Council and The Ministry of Culture and Sports, The Israel Lottery Council for Culture & Arts, and Other Israel FF.


About Orit Fouks Rotem

Orit was born in Israel in 1983. She graduated from the Jerusalem Sam Spiegel School with honors in 2012, winning her class’ ‘Promising Director’ Award. Her diploma film "Staring Match" was screened in festivals all over the world, including San Sebastian, Montreal, Munich, and won the Grand Prix award at the Hangzhao Festival in China, Best Screenplay Award at Tel Aviv Student Film Festival, and an Honorable Mention at the Jerusalem Film Festival. 

After graduating, Orit co-directed a documentary series for the Israeli Channel YES Doco; worked as a film facilitator and director for Israeli NGO, making films with at-risk youth; and worked as a filmmaking teacher to groups of women in Acres and Givat Haviva. She also conducted research for a documentary by the Oscar-award-winning director Alex Gibney, and wrote and directed two short fiction films – "You Remain Silent", which was part of the Abraham Heffner tribute "Voice Over" and premiered in Sarajevo, Jerusalem Film Festival 2018 and the MoMA, and "Veil", which was selected to various festivals around the world including the Oslo Short Film Festival, Jerusalem Film Festival and Brussels Short Film Festival. 

Cinema Sabaya won Best Picture Award and Audience Award at the Jerusalem International Film Festival, as well as Best Picture at the Ophir Awards, the prizes of the Israeli Academy of Film and Television. Including its Best Picture Prize, the film received five awards in total, also collecting Best Director for Rotem and Best Supporting Actress for Joanna Said. Cinema Sabaya is Orit’s debut feature film.