The film is named after the local football stadium located in the town of Be'er Sheva in southern Israel. Vasermil tells the story of three teenagers who live in the same tough neighborhood...
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The film is named after the local football stadium located in the town of Be'er Sheva in southern Israel. Vasermil tells the story of three teenagers who live in the same tough neighborhood, growing up in an unforgiving environment, pinning their hopes on football as a way out. Shlomi lives with his widowed mother, little sister, and step-father and works as a pizza delivery boy. Adiel, of Ethiopian descent, has to look after his young brother and sick mother. Dima, a new immigrant from Russia, has a father who is unemployed and a mother who works as a cleaning lady. The three teens are recruited by the coach of the local football team to take part in the Be'er Sheva open youth championship, held, traditionally on Independence Day at the Vasermil stadium. Learning to work together as a team is the key to success in the tournament and success in the tournament means getting noticed by the scouts of the local football empire - Hapoel Be'er Sheva. In order to win the tournament they will... Written by
This rather downbeat Israeli first film about soccer and social and ethnic problems focuses on three at-risk teenagers whose involvement in a team gives them some hope of saving their otherwise messy lives. At center stage is the luminously sullen Russian immigrant Dima (David Teplitzky), who's involved in petty drug dealing with shady, older fellow countrymen and despises school and his unemployed stepfather. His mother wants him to play the piano at some school ceremony, but he doesn't even go to school most of the time.
The 100% Israeli is Schlomo, (Nadir Eldad) who also has brutish, gangsterish connections and a violent attitude; he's hostile toward his equally mean, violent (and much bigger) boss at a pizza shop. Schlomo however shines at soccer and is captain of the little team coached by yet another tough cookie, Matan (Matan Avinoam Blumenkrantz).
Adiel (Adiel Samro) was born in Israel but as an Ethiopian he's still very much an outsider. He wears a yarmulke, ostensibly because he used to go to a religious boarding school, but perhaps also because people still question whether Ethiopians are really Jews. He's a good soccer player but has to overcome racial prejudice to get to show his ability on the team, and must also worry about a sick mother and a little brother.
At the Jerusalem Film Festival last July 'Vasermil' was viewed as breathing life into the proceedings and it won the Wolgin prize over 'The Band Visit.' Judges admired the nervously expressive camera and use of non-actors and naturalistic sequences worthy of Ken Loach. It's significant that Salmona spent ten years in London. He grew up in Beershiva, where the film is set; Vasermil is a stadium there. He was aware that things were always tough in that town and have gotten tougher.
The Jerusalem judges also were impressed by the director's gritty confrontation of social problems and his avoidance of any Hollywood resolutions. There's no triumph in the Big Game coming. On the other hand, the sequences of soccer play are unusually natural. The only stretcher is the idea that Dima is only water boy and then, because he's a scrappy kid, is called in by Matan to replace the injured goalie--and immediately commands the position.
The implication is that a survivor of the hardscrabble life of the streets can excel in other spheres. Unfortunately the dangers and unwanted commitments faced by Schlomo and Dima are too great for them to ride sports to worldly success. And though Adiel is good and likes playing, he's unwilling to leave his family again to accept a scholarship.
It's indeed impressive the way Ram Shweky's camera in 'Vasermil' makes these boys and the people they must deal with loom very large on the screen, and there's certainly no fluff in Reut Hahn's editing here. Not every moment or every performance is convincing, however, and the roughness sometimes seems like disorganization. It would have been nice if Salmona had let his scenes and his characters breathe a bit more. Dividing up events among three boys may be essential to conveying a segmented and restless modern urban society, but while depicting social and family and ethnic conflicts, Salmona doesn't allow his main characters to emerge fully as personalities, and only Adiel gets to have anything like a gentle side. It's fine to avoid a Hollywood ending, but there's nothing very artistic about the way the narrative just suddenly stops. I'm not utterly convinced this was better than all the competition for the New Directors Award at the San Francisco festival (which it won), but it does convey vividly a sense of diving into social realities and is a strong beginning for director Salmona.
Seen at the San Francisco International Film Festival 2008, where it was awarded the New Directors Prize. New Directors Special Jury Mention went to Thai director Aditya Assarat's haunting and beautiful 'Wonderful Town.'
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