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:: Live And Become (Va, vis et deviens)

Radu Mihaileanu’s film ‘Live And Become’ is the story of a young Ethiopian boy rescued from his ravaged and desolate home country by what was known at the time as ‘Operation Moses’. This scheme in the 1980’s helped save thousands of Ethiopian Jews and flew them to Israel to begin a new life. Schlomo was one of many who passed himself off as a Jew to escape. And under his dying mother’s instructions “Go. Live. Become’, this is where the story begins.

The audience is taken on the intense ride of Schlomo’s journey from childhood into adulthood. The young boy never knows exactly who he is. He struggles to find an identity and survive in a racist world that doesn’t accept black people as Jews. Schlomo never forgets where he came from and we are constantly reminded of his need for his mother and his need to find out who he is.

Schlomo is taken on by adoptive parents who nurture him into a young adult. Living in Tel Aviv, they are left-wing non-practicing Jews, who do their best to shelter him from the many racist situations that he finds himself in. Through the powerful love of his new parents, we see him grow up, fall in love, become a ‘proper Jew’ and study medicine. However, Schlomo always remains an outcast, always wondering whether he will see his real mother again.

It is a story that deals with healing and searching for a real sense of self. The audience is frequently reminded that in this world, one is defined by terms and names. Schlomo was named then renamed, he lived in Ethiopia then Israel, he was an African and then suddenly he had to pretend to be a Jew. When Schlomo informs his family that he is returning from France after finishing his medicine course, he is warned not to come home because all the Ethiopians who passed themselves off as Jews were being prosecuted. Schlomo simply says ‘But where is my home?’ He constantly struggles with identities and names and fights hard to keep his secret that he is not a Jew at all. The film is the search for his own identity and character. Eventually he accepts that he is unique and exceptional in his own circumstances.

‘Live And Become’ is a powerfully intense and emotional film. It deals with issues that are real and relevant to our modern world. Racism, terrorism, starvation in Africa and identity in a multicultural and changing world where one is forced to define themselves by where they come from. The end scene where Schlomo finds his mother almost runs into being a bit overly emotional and un-needed, but this is the only point in the film where this is so. Live and Become is a beautiful and bold film and a much needed story in today’s racist world.