The upcoming Academy Awards is currently drawing criticism for excluding black actors and actresses in the nominations for all the acting awards for a second straight year.
However, there is no such controversy concerning the Palestinian short film "Ave Maria" which was nominated this year for the Best Live Action Short Film Oscar award.
The 14-minute comedy entitled "Ave Maria" tells the story of five Palestinian nuns from the Sisters of Mercy convent and a family of Jewish settlers in the West Bank, according to The Gospel Herald.
The car belonging to the Jewish family breaks down outside of the nuns' convent, and the two groups encounter unexpected and challenging situations that highlight their religious differences.
Because the Jewish family is religiously observant, they dare not use a telephone on Shabbat (Judaism's day of rest) and requested that the nuns call for assistance on their behalf. What makes the situation so hilarious is that the nuns are unable to make the call because of their vow of silence. Together, however, the two groups unite and came up with an unusual plan to help the family get back home.
"Ave Maria" is the first Arab cinematic film to compete for an Oscar in that category, and it is directed by Basil Khalil and produced by Eric Dupont.
Khalil shared during an interview with ScreenPicks that he drew inspiration from a Carmelite convent which is near his childhood home in Nazareth.
"It's like a fortress. What struck my curiosity was how do they live under these strict rules and the modern world. These nuns, some of them in their 70s and 80s, are still using rotary phones and have never heard of a fax machine yet. So that's what drew my attention," he said. "And then also being brought up as a Palestinian in Israel. Once you're born, you're instantly having to take sides—whatever religion you are."
For Khalil, the message of the short film is why people have to live by the rules they grew up learning without even choosing them in the first place.