Romanian-born French filmmaker Radu Mihaileanu's coming-of-age story revolves around a Christian Ethiopian child whose impoverished mother sneaks him onto the humanitarian airlift that relocated thousands of persecuted Ethiopian Jews — the Falasha — to Israel in 1985.
1985, Sudan: Refugees of all kinds, traumatized and exhausted, mingle in a teeming camp, including Falasha en route to Israel and Christians from Northern Ethiopia displaced by the decades-long Eritrean War of Independence. On the day buses are due to transport Falasha families to the airport, a Falasha woman, Hana (Mimi Abonesh Kebebe), loses her son to illness and malnutrition; her husband and their other child are already dead. Another woman, a Christian (Meki Shibru Sivan), sees a way to give her 9-year-old boy (Moshe Agazai) a chance at a better life: Posing as a Jewish orphan, he accompanies the grieving mother to Israel, haunted by his mother's parting words: "Go, live and become."
He arrives in Israel under the dead boy's name, Solomon, which is changed to Schlomo. Hana carefully coaches the child in Jewish rituals and family history, but she soon falls ill and dies. Schlomo is placed in an orphanage, where he proves bright but truculent, and is later adopted by the Harrari family. Yale (Yael Abecassis) was born in Israel and her husband, Yoram (Roschdy Zem), is from Egypt; both are more devoted to leftist political causes than religion but they go out of their way to accommodate Schlomo's presumed piety. Stripped of his name, language, religion, culture and family and forced to continue living a lie or risk deportation, Schlomo struggles to find his place in a culture where racism often trumps the ideal of religious solidarity. Questions of identity continue to plague Schlomo as a teenager (Moshe Abebe) and as a young man (Sirak M. Sabahat), as he tries to parse his responsibilities to his homeland and the country that adopted him, however problematically.
Mihaileanu's film is strongest during the segment dealing with Schlomo's childhood, but builds to an emotional climax shaded by subtle ambiguity. (In subtitled Hebrew, Amharic and French)
Cast & Details
- Released: 2005
- Rating: NR
- Review: Romanian-born French filmmaker Radu Mihaileanu's coming-of-age story revolves around a Christian Ethiopian child whose impoverished mother sneaks him onto the humanitarian airlift that relocated thousands of persecuted Ethiopian Jews — the Falasha — to Isr… (more)