Israeli director says surprise loss for Bashir was karma

“Waltz With Bashir” director Ari Folman said after his upset Oscar loss Feb. 22 that he felt he was destined to be the one to lose the big prize in the end.

“I think it’s the karma of my life, being the one who is supposed to win and loses,” the director said outside a post–Academy Awards party held at the swanky Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills.

Folman had been heavily favored to win a statuette for best foreign film — an award that would have been Israel’s first in eight nominations, including one in 2008 for Joseph Cedar’s “Beaufort.”

Instead, Japan’s “Departures,” a film about a classical musician who takes a job preparing bodies for burial, won the award. It was the first Japanese film to win an Oscar for best foreign language film in more than 50 years.

Folman’s film won a number of key Hollywood accolades in the run-up to the Oscars, including a Golden Globe, widely seen as a harbinger of success at the Academy Awards

“Waltz With Bashir” director Ari Folman receives a certificate of nomination at a Feb. 20 ceremony at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “Bashir” was nominated for best foreign language film but lost to the Japanese film “Departures.” photo/richard harbaugh/ampas

Folman said he arrived at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood confident that he would win, but slowly felt his certainty drain as the ceremony went on.

The foreign-language category is seen as something of a crapshoot because of the relatively small number of Academy members eligible to vote in it. Voters are required to see all five nominated films at special screenings or in theaters, rather than on the DVD copies commonly distributed for the major awards categories.

Last year’s award went to Austria’s “The Counterfeiters,” a film about a Jewish concentration camp prisoner who begins forging currency for the Nazis.

“Waltz With Bashir” was one of the most acclaimed films of the year but defied easy categorization. An animated documentary, it follows a soldier struggling to recall suppressed memories from his involvement in Israel’s 1982 war with Lebanon.

At the after-party, Folman, gripping a glass of ice water instead of a trophy, said he was happy for the international publicity the Oscars gave his film, and declined to speculate on whether politics played a role in its loss.

“It’s a game,” Folman said, shrugging. “It’s 500 anonymous voters, and I don’t know a single one.”

He added that after enjoying the post-Oscar festivities, he would be catching a plane home to Israel.

“I’ll be glad to be done with all of this traveling, though I am going to miss it in a few months — but right now I just want to go home and be with my kids,” Folman said.

“It’s been a wild ride, and it was worth it,” he added.

“Departures” director Yojiro Takita said he was surprised about his win, given the strong buzz around “Bashir.”

“It was hard to believe, and it was unbelievable,” he said backstage after accepting the award.

The other Oscar nominees were: Cannes Palme d’Or winner “The Class,” from France; the Austrian crime caper “Revanche”; and Germany’s “The Baader Meinhof Complex,” which follows the West German terrorist group the Red Army Faction.