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|Index||38 reviews in total|
Twenty-four hours after seeing this extraordinary, multi-layered film
about a boy who is airlifted out of Ethiopia and brought to Israel, I
am still reviewing images in my mind and wondering at the courage and
audacity that must have been necessary to bring this story to the
Salomon was nine years old, living in a desperate refugee camp in Sudan. In late 1984, there was a covert Israeli-American operation to save Ethiopian Jews, known as Falashas, by airlifting them to Israel. The Falashas, are a small branch of the Diaspora. But as they lined up for their exodus, Salomon's mother tells him firmly to "go, live and become", the title of the movie. She saw in the exodus an opportunity for her son to escape the death, disease, famine and civil war that were ravaging Ethiopia. Salomon's mother would stay behind.
The trauma of being told by his mother to leave was already strong stuff. But there is more; Salomon is not even a Falasha. So the arrival in modern Israel is a double shock for him. However, Salomon becomes Schlomo, and we see that he is a quick learner. He learns Hebrew and, when he is adopted by a bi-lingual French-Hebrew family, he learns French, too.
However, Schlomo has a persistent and profound desire to see his mother again. He is wounded. On top of that injury, he has to deal with racism and bigotry in Israel, while hiding the fact that he is not a Falasha. Schlomo carries a lot of emotional baggage, but he has some good people rooting for him. Like the Yarom and Yael, the couple who adopt Schlomo, and Sara, the girl who has him firmly in her sights. The story of Schlomo's trials and tribulations is moving on several levels.
What makes this film audacious is that it confronts the question "who is a Jew". The answer is not self-evident. Indeed, the question has been the subject of impassioned debate in Israel for years. The Falashas are just one case study. It is simply remarkable that someone would make a film that touches on this issue. Bravo!
I saw this at the Shanghai film festival,it was called there -Live and become- I knew nothing about it. It is one of the few film that gave me a history lesson as well as complete entertainment. I really didn't notice the Cinematography or even the music. the story was encapsulating,and albeit fiction,had that real aura that made you think that something identical or very close ,has actually happened. The young Schlomo was excellent as was the mother-in fact I really couldn't find a weak performance. If you liked The Last Emperor or Dances with Wolves this movie should have a similar effect. I know quite a lot about both the countries involved in this story and I thought the director was flawless in portraying each culture. He was also flawless in taking you down one path, and just when you thought it was safe and predictable-he would rush you to another, surprising, even better place. It taught me things I didn't know and brought out emotions that have been dormant a while. A stimulating,informative masterpiece.
Just returned from the first screening of this movie. An amazing start
to the Berlinale Film Festival. It was long (2 and 1/2 hours),
absorbing, well-scripted/acted, and very moving. The director and the
lead actor were there afterwards and we applauded them heartily. This
is what a film festival is about.
The basic plot follows the life of a young Ethiopian boy, Shlomo, whose mother realizes that he can be saved if he poses as one of the Falashas, the Ethiopian Jews. They were clandestinely airlifted to Israel from Sudan in the mid 1980s. This is a story of migration,assimilation and identity through the eyes of an individual. It shows how Israel deals with these 'different' Jews, how he deals with not really being one of them, how he is adopted by an idealistic left-wing family, falls in love with a young Israeli girl whose father is a racist, and his ongoing inner-dialogue with his mother still somewhere in a Sudanese refugee camp. Very multi-layered, critical without being moralistic and preachy. Unlike Mr. Mihaileanu's other big movie "The Train of Life" this is not a comedy, but it contains plenty of warmth and humor, and also stars a Shlomo.
In my opinion, Radu Mihaileanu, the genius director of 'Train de Vie', has created his masterpiece in his second film. This is the story of an African boy who returns to life from the brink of death. The movie depicts his fight, his ambitions, passions and the power of love. It is a very weird experience for me to enjoy a movie telling the story of a black Jewish! boy. I think, this movie must also play a very important role in the war against racism. There has been a huge conflict for decades in Middle East between Palestine and Israel. I hope that the sense of humanity and love in this movie will help ending all conflicts on earth. Never forget that same creator has created all of us and Adam was a redskin.
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.
I have just finished watching "vas vis et deviens" and must say that this is one of the most thought provoking pictures i have seen in a longtime. Many controversial issues were raised. Although racism and the never ending question of "who is a Jew?" were raised , less obvious, more subdued issues were also dealt with. The most intriguing issue raised deals with separating state and religion. The viewer essentially comes to see situations in shades of grey. The viewer is asked to find himself in the Israeli government without the movie even dealing with governmental issues. Not only are you constantly challenged in this movie but you will be offended and intrigued by it. This is a definite must see.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A film of epic proportions, "Va, vis et deviens", shows an excellent
director, Radu Mihaileunu at his best. Mr. Miahueunu, who co-wrote the
screen play with Alain Michel Blanc, gives us a slice of life in this
life affirming film that will please audiences because the way these
two men decided to present their story that centers around a tragedy
perpetrated in Africa.
A young Ethiopian child sees enough devastation around him. When he is separated from his own mother, a kind Jewish black woman, advises him to assume a new identity, that of an Ethiopian Jew, so he will qualify to be taken to Israel, part of a plan to help settle these unfortunate people in the land of milk and honey. The young man, who has witnessed enough tragedy during his short years, goes along and is taken to a place where he has no one, or even belong.
Schlomo, as he is called, is lucky enough to be adopted by a kind Israeli family with two young children of their own. Being black in an almost all white society has its disadvantages, as the young man learns early on. The love of his adoptive parents should have been sufficient, but he is a child that knows he doesn't belong among these nice people that have opened their home, and accept him. Schlomo, who we see through different aspects of his life, as a boy, then a teen ager, and a grown man, meets an older Jewish black man, another fellow Ethiopian, who helps him overcome his fears and ask him to come clean, not only to Sarah, the woman who loves him, but to everybody. The big secret he has been carrying all his life, is a burden keeps him enslaved all his life, revealing it, will free him of the tremendous guilt in his heart.
There are excellent all around performances in the film. Yael Abecassis and Roschay Zen, who play the adoptive parents make a tremendous contribution to the film. The young Schlomo is acted by three different actors, all of them good. They contribute to make this, one of the most credible movies in a while.
The hauntingly beautiful music of Arman Amar, and the cinematography of Semy Chevin, make the film even better to watch. The director, Radu Mihaileunu shows great sensitivity with the material and turns a great picture that will be hard to forget.
The closing night of last year's San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
turned out to be more than just the screening of a movie. There was
drama in the Castro Theater, many in a mostly Jewish audience sobbing
audibly in response to the story of an Ethopian child escaping to
Israel by pretending to be Jewish. In June 2007, "Live and Become" is
being released commercially in the U.S.
Forty-seven-year-old Radu Mihaileanu - Romanian-born, raised in Israel, now a French filmmaker, director of the much-honored "Train of Life" - created a complex, honest, deeply affecting work in "Live and Become" ("Va, vis et deviens"). In the post-Holocaust world of many Jews trying to pass for gentile, Mihaileanu's true and truthful story shows the opposite: a mother's denial of a child as her own, forcing him to adopt a new identity and religion in order to survive - as a Jew, in Israel, escaping the deadly Ethopian famine and war.
Yet another meaningful reference is Imre Gyöngyössy's 1983 "The Revolt of Job" ("Jób lázadása"), about a Hungarian Jewish peasant couple adopting a Christian child, raising him as a Christian, and refuse to recognize him as their own when they are being taken away, again to assure the child's survival. (The child lived, and grew up to be the writer and director of the film about his own story.) Mihaileanu's film is based on true events. In 1985, the Mossad supervised an amazing drive, "Operation Moses," the airlift of thousands of Falasha, Ethiopian Jews, believed to be descendants of Menilek I, the son of the Queen of Sheba (Makeda) and King Solomon. Thousands died on the march to Sudan where the Israeli airlift operated, but even more escaped, arrived in Israel, were accepted by the country - if not without religious and political controversy.
History and politics are just the background to "Live and Become," the title stemming from the heartbreaking command of the boy's mother: go, don't tell anyone who you really are, become a Jew, do not come back.
Three actors play Schlomo (the name given to the boy at the Ellis-Island-like refugee center) at various times of his life. The film's greatest impact is from the child Schlomo (Moshe Agazai), who must learn new customs, a new religion, Hebrew, Yiddish, and French (of his adoptive parents) at the same, forgetting his Amharic. His initial transition from the refugee camp to modern Israel is astonishing, at one unforgettable moment, while taking his first shower, he is trying to stop the water from going down the drain, panicking at the sinful waste.
Mihaileanu is a skilled, powerful moviemaker: he is sticking to the central message, staying with his characters, keeps telling what is the truth for them, but the direction, acting, cinematography are glossy-professional. What makes the film extraordinary - what creates all the crying in the audience - is its honest and effective portrayal of the young refugee's isolation and loneliness, made worse by his belief that his escape is at the cost of his mother's life, in exchange for a lie he feels he must live, even as he becomes an authentic member of Israeli society.
The cast is uniformly outstanding, but Schlomo's adoptive parents are especially memorable. Moroccan-Israeli actress Yael Abecassis' warmth and strength, Moroccan-French actor Roschdy Zem's rough integrity create a true and enviable family environment - but there is nothing easy or false about the young refugee's difficult journey and internal tribulations.
I can only talk in superlatives about this movie. It's so powerful that
it takes a second viewing to realize that in fact it's even more
powerful... Yes, there is a history lesson in it (Falashas, Middle
East, Cold War, Gulf War etc.), and yes, it's an interesting tale about
a person whom you just have to think to be real, but more than that,
it's so universal in its way of talking about our search for a secure
identity... searching for it in a process at the end of which we hope
to end up in some nice future at the same time not having forgotten
that what was precious in our past. To arrive at that, so much help is
needed from good people you can trust, or so much luck, if you want to
say it that way... This film will make you realize that and in the
process it will awaken in you an overwhelming feeling of respect for
human dignity as well.
To Radu Mihaileanu I can only say, continue to give us this good films, please. If it takes years of research as it did in this case, so be it. Oh, and I hope to see all of the actors, too, again some day. How stupid of me, I will, of course, at the third viewing of 'Va, vis et deviens'.
I am an old man and an inveterate cinema-goer since my early youth. I admit that I have been and still am perhaps rather too demanding where films are concerned because, to be honest, out of the innumerable films I have enjoyed throughout the long years of my life, the ones that really succeeded in stunning me as masterpieces which nailed me to my seat from the start of the projection to its very end can be counted on the fingers of one hand. But "Va,vis et deviens" is most certainly one of them in all respects. It aims directly at what is noble in us, and it does so in simple and understandable terms. Pity that the word "excellent" is used so frequently these days, for I now feel the need of yet a stronger adjective to qualify this film.
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