Elkabetz in Jaffa, 2009
|Born||(1964-11-27)27 November 1964
|Died||19 April 2016(2016-04-19) (aged 51)
Tel Aviv, Israel
|Occupation||Actress, film director|
|Spouse(s)||Avner Yashar (2010–16; her death)|
Ronit Elkabetz (Hebrew: רונית אלקבץ; 27 November 1964 – 19 April 2016) was an Israeli actress, writer and filmmaker. She worked in both Israeli and French cinema. She won three Ophir Awards and received a total of seven nominations.
Elkabetz was born in Beersheba in 1964 to a religious Moroccan Jewish family, originally from Essaouira. She grew up in Kiryat Yam. Her mother spoke French and Arabic, but her father insisted on speaking only Hebrew. Elkabetz was the oldest of four children, with three younger siblings who were all brothers. Her younger brother Shlomi also became a director, and they worked together on the trilogy Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem .
She never studied acting and started her career as a model. She divided her time between her homes in Paris and Tel Aviv. She married architect Avner Yashar, the son of prominent architect Yitzhak Yashar, on 25 June 2010. In 2012, they had a twin son and daughter. During her final years, she was honorary president of the Mizrahi Feminist movement “Achoti – For Women in Israel”, and volunteered in the organization’s activities, such as the fair trade store and clothing drives. In 2015 she was selected to be the President of the Jury for the International Critics’ Week section of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.
Elkabetz died of cancer on 19 April 2016 after a long struggle with the disease.
Acting and directing career
Elkabetz’s first film appearance was in The Appointed (1990), where she played in the starring role opposite Shuli Rand. They both starred in Gidi Dar‘s Eddie King in 1992. In 1994 she starred in Sh’Chur, for which she won the Israeli Film Academy (Ophir) Award. In 1995 she wrote with her partner, Haim Buzaglo, the script for Scar, in which she also starred, and for which she learned French. In 1996 she starred in Amos Gitai‘s Metamorphosis of a Melody. In 1997 she moved to Paris to study in Ariane Mnouchkine‘s Théâtre du Soleil. During that period, she supported herself as a waitress. She did a one-woman show on the life of the choreographer Martha Graham at the Avignon Festival.
In 2001 she starred in the French film Origine contrôlée, and won her second Ophir Award for Late Marriage. In 2003 she teamed again with Gitai on Alila. In 2004 she was nominated for an Ophir Award for Or (My Treasure), and starred in the Israeli legal drama series Franco and Spector.
In 2009 she starred alongside Catherine Deneuve in André Téchiné‘s La Fille du Rer. Her other recent French projects have included Ashes and Blood, Turk’s Head, and Les mains libres. In 2010 she received an Ophir Award nomination for Best Actress for her work in Mabul. She was recently the subject of Nir Bergman’s documentary A Stranger in Paris.
Her 2014 film Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem was selected to be screened as part of the Directors’ Fortnight section of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. This was the final film Elkabetz directed prior to her death.
Israeli film critic Uri Klein wrote: “Moviegoers can admire Ronit Elkabetz or recoil from her, or admire and recoil at the same time. Ignoring her is not an option. The mystery and the exoticism, the threat and the danger have ultimately gathered into a potent presence and cogent control.”
In May 2010, Elkabetz received the France Culture award at the Cannes Film Festival, a prize awarded to filmmakers for quality work and social involvement. The judges described her as a “woman teeming with passion and erotica, who can even play the queen of Egypt.”