You just don’t get that many family dramas about Talmudic scholars, but Footnote (Hearat Shulayim) does a great job of filling the gap. Although it deals with a serious conflict between a father and son, it is heavily laced with humorous portrayals. Eliezer Shkolnik is a grumpy, misanthropic scholar who devoted 30 years of meticulous research to deducing the existence of a lost medieval version of the Talmud that would change the entire understanding of Jewish religious history. But just one month before he was finally about to publish the fruit of his life’s work, his rival, Yehuda Grossman, announced that he had discovered the actual lost manuscript. So although it turns out that Eliezer was right all along, his 30 years’ worth of research is now useless. All he has to show for his labors is a footnote in the work of his late mentor. What Eliezer really wants is to be awarded the ultra-prestigious Israel Prize. Unfortunately, the chairman of the committee that chooses each year’s winner is none other than Yehuda Grossman.
Meanwhile, Eliezer’s middle-aged son, Uriel, has become a noted scholar himself. But unlike his father, Uriel is amiable, well-liked by his students and his colleagues, and recognized in academia for his treatises on popular subjects. Then, one day, out of the blue, Eliezer receives a call from the Ministry of Education informing him that he has finally been awarded the Israel Prize. Life is good… until the selection committee calls Uriel in for a private meeting and explains that a mistake has been made and that it was he, not his father, who was supposed to receive the call.
At this point, Footnote takes a major change in tone. There are no more laughs and instead we see Eliezer, unaware of the mistake, act like the selfish jerk he has always been.
Director Joseph Cedar was previously nominated for the Academy Award four years ago for Beaufort.