Israeli student filmmaker’s documentary to be entered in Oscar race

Tom Tugend

LOS ANGELES (JTA) —   A Tel Aviv University graduate has won a top Student Academy Award and her documentary will be automatically entered in the Hollywood Oscar race.

Maya Sarfaty will also receive a gold medal for her film, “The Most Beautiful Woman,” it was announced Monday by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Beneath the appealing title lies the story of a love affair between an SS guard and a young Jewish woman at the Auschwitz death camp.

In the Academy’s list of nominees, Sarfaty’s film was the only one to make the cut in the Foreign Documentary category and is therefore guaranteed of a first place gold medal when the final winners are announced on Sept. 22.

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A native of Netanya, Sarfaty earned an undergraduate and master’s degree at the Steve Tisch School of Film and Television at Tel Aviv University and also graduated from the Nissan Nativ Acting School, which conducts classes in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

“The Most Beautiful Woman” is based on the actual story of SS soldier Franz Wunsch, an Auschwitz guard, who fell in love with Helena Citronova, a young Jewish prisoner from Slovakia.

In return for Helena’s affection and sexual favors, Wunsch saved her, and her sister Rosinka, from certain death, though he was unable to save Rosinka’s two children.

In all, the Academy selected 17 students as nominees in seven categories. All the nominees will be flown to Los Angeles one week before the Sept. 22 award ceremony for seven days of studio activities and networking events.

Sarfaty now lists herself as an independent filmmaker, who has earned credits as director, writer and/or editor for such films as “Still Waters” and “Overtime.”

An Academy spokesperson said that this year saw a record number of entries, with 1,749 films submitted by U.S. students and 95 films from colleges and universities in other countries.

The 89th Academy Awards gala is scheduled for “Oscar Sunday” on Feb. 26, 2017.