7.3/10
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The Matchmaker (2010)

Once I Was (original title)
During the summer of 1968 a teenage boy goes to work for a matchmaker who has survived the Holocaust - both their lives are forever altered.

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(novel), (screenplay)

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Cast

Credited cast:
Adir Miller ...
Maya Dagan ...
Clara Epstein
Tuval Shafir ...
Arik Burstein
Dror Keren ...
Meir the Librarian
Dov Navon ...
Yozi Burstein
Yarden Bar-Kochba ...
Nili Burstein
Neta Porat ...
Tamara
Bat-El Papura ...
Sylvia
Kobi Faraj ...
Moshe Abadi
Yael Levental ...
Tikva Abadi
Tom Gal ...
Benny Abadi
Eyal Shehter ...
Arik Burstein - Adult
Ya'ackov Bodo ...
Adv. Segalson
Eli Yatzpan ...
Uncle Nadgi
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Shira Alfandari ...
The Rabbi's wife
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Storyline

During the summer of 1968 a teenage boy goes to work for a matchmaker who has survived the Holocaust - both their lives are forever altered.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

He gets you what you need, not what you want!

Genres:

Drama

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Details

Official Sites:

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

17 August 2012 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A házasságközvetítõ  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Budget:

$2,150,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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User Reviews

 
Not an easy film for a non-Israeli to review
26 July 2011 | by (Upstate New York) – See all my reviews

The Israeli movie Once I Was (Pa'am Hayiti) was shown in the US with the title The Matchmaker (2010). It was written and directed by Avi Nesher. The film was very popular in Israel, where it won four Israeli Academy Awards. The other reviewers of this film are either Israelis or are familiar with Israeli culture, so they can do a better job than I can discussing the reality of the movie. For example, it is set in the seaport of Haifa in 1968, and there are questions about the authenticity of the sets and the accents. I will leave these topics to the experts.

I'm reviewing the film more on its plot and acting. The plot is fascinating. A Holocaust survivor, Yankele Bride (Adir Miller) is a smuggler and petty criminal. That's his profession, but his hobby is matchmaking. His job is to find mates for people who, for whatever reason, are considered undesirable.

The saddest of these people is a young woman, Sylvia, who is very beautiful but has achondroplasia. (The role is played by the extraordinary actress Bat-El Papura.) Sylva wants to be married, but no person of normal height will consider her as a spouse. Even the hapless character called Meir the Librarian turns away from Sylvia when he meets her. Yankele does his best for her, but he never succeeds.

The most obvious theme of the movie is a coming-of-age story of Arik Burstein (Tuval Shafir), whose father is also a Holocaust survivor. Arik starts work as Yankele's "spy," the person who checks out the matchmaker's clients to make sure that they are who and what they say they are. (There's another theme about a visiting American cousin, who is a liberated young woman, but that subplot never goes anywhere.)

The key theme, as I saw it, is that Holocaust survivors were welcomed to Israel, but they weren't admired or honored. As Arik's father says, "people always want to know what we had to do in order to survive." The clash of cultures--eastern European survivors who were seen as victims vs. Israelis who had fought for independence--is in the background of the entire movie. (Sometimes this clash is overt, sometimes it's subtle, but it's always there.)

Of course, Arik is impressed by the brash, streetwise Yankele, as opposed to his own quiet, respectable father. We are supposed to be impressed by Yankele too, because his criminal activities are treated as amusing foibles. I don't think that smuggling goods into Israel was an appropriate way to thank the country that took you in, but he is definitely a likable character in the movie. Each viewer will have to decide about Yankele for herself or himself.

I liked this film well enough to suggest that it's worth seeing if it comes along. I'm not sure it's a movie I would seek out for viewing. We saw The Matchmaker at the excellent Rochester Jewish Film Festival, screened at the wonderful Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House. It will work equally well on a small screen.


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