Sunday, January 08, 2006

See You At The Airport. I'll Be The One With The Police Escort.

Va, vis et deviens
2005, France/Israel
Radu Mihaelianu
35mm

Hate week, a New Years tradition celebrating a bunch of things I wish were dead, has come to a close, and to mark the occasion, I was taken to a movie about black Jews. I’m no legal expert, but I’m pretty sure that there are laws against entrapment in this country. But I’m not falling for it, because I liked this movie. At least I think I did. Each of the voices in my head has a very specific prejudice, and when they get worked up they tend to yell all at once, so all I can hear is what sounds like an Ann Coulter article set to the beat of my own throbbing pulse. Unlike Coulter, however, I refuse to use hyperbole and snide comments to sweeten a massively poison hate-pill because I am evil. I use bad jokes: What I did manage to gather from the film is a poignant and realistic character study about the Falasha, who are pretty much the most hard done by group you can imagine. Black and Jewish, they’re already walking around with two strikes against them. Pitch in homosexuality and you’ve got one hell of a college application.

This is playing in my head all the time. I want to kill myself.

In the 1980s, Mossad organized the covert evacuation of thousands of Jews from Ethiopia to Israel, so they could be ostracized and fed instead of ostracized and starved. Va, vis et deviens follows one young Ethiopian who pretends to be Jewish in order to flee the famine-ravaged country. Forced to leave his mother behind, the young boy is plagued by both guilt and the strain of keeping his secret, and the film watches his struggle unflinchingly. That’s not to say that the movie is particularly dark; it’s not. It strikes just the right tone, allowing for scenes that wouldn’t feel out of place in a bad sitcom or Ben Stiller movie, such as one where the young boy, Schlomo, is given the chance to lead a prayer to the Jewish god at the dinner table, only to be embarrassed when he can’t remember the PIN number of his ATM card. Whoa, sorry, I walked right into that one. No matter what you expect, I am not going to turn this review into a bunch of banking and diamond jokes just so you can see me deported for hate speech.

One more for good measure.

Instead, I’ll focus on the script and the performances, which are so engaging I forgot to get annoyed by the directing, which I should have been, especially after the abominable final shot of the film. The relationships are well-drawn between all the characters, and the actors are all spot on, especially the lead. Schlomo is played first as a nine year old by the suitable shell-shocked Moshe Agazai, then as a dread-locked Nick Cannon by Moshe Abebe, who handles the transition from fish out of water youngster to post-Pimp My Jew cool kid with ease. What’s most impressive about this movie is that it manages to avoid overt commentary on greater political issues by focusing on the personal, on the characters, and therefore makes its macroscopic statements subtly. Within the rough exterior of the film, lies a prayer for peace and understanding between all people, regardless of race or religion, glittering like a diamond in a Jewish pawn-shop. Shit. Guess I better pack my bags.

2 Comments:

Blogger Sam Kahn said...

Do you know if this is getting wide release? I haven't heard anything about it coming to San Diego... sucks not to be in Los Angeles.

1:19 AM  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

I don't think it's even been premiered at a festival in the US. Guess there's not a big Ethiopian Jewry community where you live.

8:57 AM  

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