Live and Become received a rare standing ovation at the Telluride Film Festival, evidence of the emotional power of a remarkable journey of discovery.
Ethiopian Jews, called Falashas, fleeing persecution and famine, escape to Sudanese refugee camps. In 1984, Operation Moses begins the airlift of Falashas to Israel. A Christian woman in a refugee camp wants a better life for her 9-year-old son (Moshe Agazai). She orders him to pretend to be Jewish so he can be airlifted out. After a poignant silent glance with the boy’s mother, a Falasha woman whose son has recently died takes the boy’s hand as she boards the plane to Israel. She passes him off as her own son. In Israel, the adopted mother dies. The boy is named Schlomo.
Agazai gives Schlomo a face full of sadness as he yearns for his mother back in Africa. Schlomo is mystified by life in Israel, which is radically different from anything he had ever known. He is adopted by a liberal Israeli couple, Yael (Yael Abecassis) and Yoram (Roschdy Zem) with two children. Yael (a part written for Abecassis) becomes a fiery defender of Schlomo against the prejudices he faces as he begins a new life.
Writer/director Radu Mihaileanu ( Train of Life ), an emigrant from Romania, has made a film that is fascinating on different levels. Under continual stress, Schlomo must create a new identity while facing hostility as a black immigrant and always fearing discovery as a non-Jew. His struggles are extremely affecting. Through Schlomo, the film becomes an engrossing view of the conflicts between factions in Israeli society. A teenage Schlomo (Mosche Abebe) and Sarah (Roni Hadar) fall in love. Her father fervently opposes any contact between Schlomo and his daughter, suspecting Schlomo is an impostor. Even as an adult, Schlomo’s (now played by Sirak M. Sabahat) apprehensions continue. In the distinctive cast, non-professionals seamlessly mix with accomplished actors like Zem ( Monsieur N. ) and Abecassis. Ironically, the three young men portraying Schlomo are all Ethiopian Jews. Live and Become builds to an unforgettable final image
Cast: Yael Abecassis, Roschdy Zem, Moshe Agazai, Mosche Abebe and Sirak M. Sabahat
Director/Screenwriter: Radu Mihaileanu
Producers: Denis Carot, Marie Masmonteil and Radu Mihaileanu
Genre: Drama; Aramaic-, Hebrew- and French-language, subtitled
Running time: 144 min.
Release date: June 27 LA