Yahav Winner, 1987–2023
By Anna Lentchner
Yahav Winner, a 36-year-old actor and filmmaker whose work is distributed by Go2Films, was discovered among the dead in Kfar Aza on October 11, several days after the kibbutz was stormed by Hamas. Winner’s wife Shaylee Atary says he died distracting the militants on October 7, allowing her and their newborn daughter to escape.
Winner was born in 1987 and grew up in Kfar Aza, a small kibbutz located five kilometers east of Gaza. When he was 21 years old, he witnessed his best friend’s father being killed "when a rocket fell from the sky," leading him to move to Tel Aviv. Hoping to become an actor, he enrolled at the Nissan Nativ Acting Studio, where he met his wife. While at Nissan, Winner starred in several art-house films, including The Plan (2012) and Capricious Manifest (2014).
After deciding to pursue filmmaking, Winner studied cinema at the Minshar School of Art in Tel Aviv, graduating in 2017. In 2020, he and his wife collaborated on Neurim, a short film that Winner produced and which later screened at the Cannes Film Festival’s Cinefondation. His own passion project began in 2022, upon realizing he had not fully processed the trauma he witnessed in his youth. Winner thus wrote and directed The Boy (2023), a deeply personal short film.
In an Instagram crowdfunding post, Winner described The Boy and the inspiration behind it: “My film is about me, my kibbutz, my region, and our country. I put my heart on a platter in a script that deals with a father and his son . . . who together deal with the son’s trauma.” The following year, The Boy was awarded the Best Cinematography prize at the Tel Aviv International Students Film Festival 2023.
On September 12, Winner and Atary welcomed their daughter Shaya into the world. Just one month later, their home was invaded. In a statement sent to Deadline, Atary wrote, “He didn’t run away. He tried to save us. That was my husband.” Winner’s funeral will take place on November 4 at the Srigim cemetery in Jerusalem.
Anna Lentchner is assistant editor at ArtAsiaPacific.