The poignant and succinct photo montage that opens writer-director Radu Mihaileanu’s Live and Become celebrates the grueling process through which Falashas, the Jews of Ethiopia, migrated to Israel during a 1984 mission known as Operation Moses. The film proper, which relates the story of a Christian boy who is adopted by a left-wing Israeli family, is long, often tedious, and burdened by sudden leaps forward and a perplexing withholding of information, but not unlike Schlomo, it perseveres. In the first and weakest stretch of the film, Schlomo pretends to be Jewish and arrives in Israel from a fugitive camp in the Sudan, but the pain of the boy’s exile from country and family is located almost entirely, and to the point of absurdity, in the young and inexperienced Moshe Agazai’s navel-gazing—a cheapened show of emotion from which the story almost never recovers. But Mihaileanu becomes increasingly and fascinatingly fixated on Schlomo’s race and how it isolates him from his community and himself, and in the first of many great scenes, his adopted mother, Yael (Yael Abecassis), throws a passionate tantrum after learning the parents of Schlomo’s schoolmates are afraid of the boy’s presumable African diseases, kissing and licking Schlomo’s pimpled and panic-stricken face before storming off in a huff. This scene is touching, but it is also a savvy expression that Yael and her husband Yoram’s (Roschdy Zem) devotion to Schlomo is more than just a show of political repentance. As Schlomo grows older, he is seen as a Job of sorts, and though some of his trials are the stuff of movie cliché, most are touching and contemplative dramatizations of the pull of one’s past and how cultural heritage is ingrained in one’s bones.
- Outsider Pictures
- 140 min
- Radu Mihaileanu
- Radu Mihaileanu
- Moshe Agazai, Mosche Abebe, Sirak M. Sabahat, Yael Abecassis, Roschdy Zem, Roni Hadar, Meskie Shibru Sivan, Mimi Abonesh Kebede, Rami Danon, Avi Oria
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