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Live and Become (2005)
"Va, vis et deviens" (original title)

Unrated  |   |  Drama  |  1 February 2008 (USA)
7.9
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 4,844 users  
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In 1980 the black Falashas in Ethiopia are recognised as genuine Jews. In turn they are secretly carried to Israel. The day before the transport the son of a Jewish mother dies. In his ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Yael
...
Yoram
Moshe Agazai ...
Schlomo enfant
Moshe Abebe ...
Schlomo adolescent
Sirak M. Sabahat ...
Schlomo adulte
Yitzhak Edgar ...
Le Qès Amara
Roni Hadar ...
Sara
Rami Danon ...
Papy
Mimi Abonesh Kebede ...
Hana - la mère Juive Ethiopienne
Meskie Shibru Sivan ...
La mère de Schlomo
Raymonde Abecassis ...
Suzy
Yosi Alfi ...
Rabbin Talmud Tora (as Yossi Alfi)
...
Directeur internat (as Shmil Ben-Ari)
Shlomo Vishinsky ...
Le policier
Shai Fredo ...
Le traducteur
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Storyline

In 1980 the black Falashas in Ethiopia are recognised as genuine Jews. In turn they are secretly carried to Israel. The day before the transport the son of a Jewish mother dies. In his place and with his name (Schlomo) she takes a Christian 9-year-old boy. Upon arrival this second mother dies. Schlomo is adopted by a good family but remains depressed until he secretly sends a letter to his real mother. From the beginning he experiences large and small racist difficulties. In his teens he and Sarah fall in love. Her father is an extreme racist. Schlomo tries to gain "real Jewishness" by winning a competition in Bible interpretation. No change of Sarah's father's attitude. Disappointed he goes to the police and reports himself as not being a Jew. But the police officer just gives him a scolding. "The newspapers are full of that stuff, the Falashas are no Jews. Now they begin to believe it themselves." His adoptive parents send him to France to study medicine. When he afterwards marries ... Written by Max Scharnberg, Stockholm, Sweden

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

jew | love | israel | letter | christian | See All (105) »

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Drama

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

1 February 2008 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Live and Become  »

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Quotes

Narrateur: They had been forgotten on their mountaintops, near Gondar. Yet, since the dawn of time, the Ethiopian Jews, known as the "Falashas", dreamed of returning to their homeland, the Holy Land, Jerusalem. With Israeli and U.S. Aid, a vast program was undertaken from November to January 1985 to transport the Ethiopian Jews to Israel. The Falashas were returned and finally recognized as descendants of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The Israeli secret service carried out the operation on the sly,...
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User Reviews

 
The pain of feeling alone
10 April 2006 | by (Vancouver, B.C.) – See all my reviews

The images we see of Ethiopians are often those of children with distended bellies clinging to life as a Western television announcer comments about their depressing fate. No one, however, speaks for the children. Winner of the Audience Award at the Berlin Film Festival, Radu Mihaileanu's Live and Become gives words to people whose voices have been silent. The film tells the story of Ethiopian Black Jews known as Falashas who were brought to Israel in Operation Moses in 1984 by the Israeli Mossad. It was an operation that successfully airlifted 8,000 Ethiopean Jews to Israel, but sadly also one in which 4,000 died during a brutal journey on foot to Sudan or later in refugee camps.

Mihaileanu (Train of Life) was born in Bucharest, Romania to Jewish parents who had spent time in the Nazi labor camps. In 1980, like the film's protagonist, he was torn from his parents when he fled the dictatorship of Ciaucescu to move to Israel and later to France. In Live and Become, a boy clinging to his mother in the Sudan is told by her to "go, live and become". She tells him that he must pretend to be a Jew and instructs him to remember that his name is Solomon, his father's name was Isaac, and his sister's name was Aster. The film spans fifteen years in the life of young Solomon (called Schlomo by the Israelis), describing his experiences of being alone into a foreign country that speaks a language he doesn't understand and filled with people of a different religion and a different color. Mihaileanu crams a great deal into the film's 142-minute length and it often seems cluttered, yet we can listen and understand its heart and the clear voice in which it speaks to us.

As he reaches Tel-Aviv, Schlomo begins the long processes of absorption and integration into Israeli society but the barriers engendered by social and cultural differences prove difficult to bear. He angrily acts out his frustration in a boarding school in Tel Aviv and is sent for adoption to a left-wing French Sephardic family, Yoram and Yaël Harrari (Roschdy Zem and Yaël Abecassis), who already have two children. They are a close-knit, warm and loving family but face many problems with the boy they did not anticipate. Yael must fight the prejudice of parents in the school who want to withdraw their children from school because they think, coming from Africa, he must be a carrier of disease.

At first refusing to eat, he makes an effort to fit in but hears over and over that because he is black he is not really a Jew. A battle erupts within Israel between fundamentalists and Orthodox Jews over the premise of a black Jew and Schlomo is caught in the middle. Afraid of being discovered as a Christian, the boy immerses himself in Jewish theology, learns Hebrew and French and studies the Torah, yet he carries the burden of his lie around with him. The story then jumps ahead a few years. As a good-looking teenager (Moshe Abebe) Schlomo meets Sarah (Roni Hadar), a white girl he likes but must contend with the virulent racism of her father. Rebelling against the authority of his surrogate parents, the boy is sent to a kibbutz to work and study but maintains a correspondence with Sarah.

As Schlomo (Sirak M. Sabahat as an adult) grows into adulthood and takes responsibility for his guilt, he feels compelled to confess his inner truth and the film capitalizes on every touch of his personal drama. Live and Become tackles one of the most controversial subjects in Israel, that of Jewish identity and racial purity. While it does not hesitate to show the ugly side of Israeli life, it also embraces its humor, sensitivity, and compassion. Although unfortunately the film occasionally slips into cliché, Live and Become works because it is about more than the experience of one person. It tells a universal story of alienation, wanting to belong, and the pain of feeling alone, feelings shared by people of all religions throughout the world.


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