The central conflict in American-Israeli director Joseph Cedar’s film, FOOTNOTE, is like one that would be in a slapstick comedy; a low-level bureaucratic assistant mistakenly mixes up the names of a father and son pair of professors and gives a prestigious award to the wrong one. The lighthearted score adds to the air of humor as we learn more about these two aging men who are more than a little petty. In a brilliant scene wherein the son, Uriel Shkolnik (Lior Ashkenazi) enters a tiny room wherein the members of the award committee reveal that it was actually him who should have received the award and not his father Eliezer (Shlomo Bar Aba), the comedy escalates and merges with the intense and painful drama that would play out more fully as the film continues.
The screenplay for FOOTNOTE which won the award at Cannes is a fascinating marriage of dramatic tension and comedy. It uses a specific incident to reveal larger truths about its characters in a compact and effective way. With each small bit of information, the emotions become more and more complicated even if the plot is relatively simple. Additionally, there was a large amount of art and skill that went into the direction of the film which used hyper-stylized images, sounds, and performance styles to further the uncomfortable realities of its characters.
For those immersed in the world of academia, FOOTNOTE presents a comically exaggerated, but nonetheless familiar, depiction of the intense competition and camaraderie between scholars who devote their lives to the same bizarrely specialized fields. However, along with the specific world the film inhabits, it also deeply contemplates what it means to be a part of a family in general. No matter what mode it is working in, FOOTNOTE just works.