LIVE AND BECOME (Va vis deviens) (Radu Mihaileanu). 140 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (April 21). For venues and times, see Movie Listings. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
In 1984, Ethiopian Jews called Falashas began emigrating to Israel with the help of the Israeli and U.S. governments, in part to escape the pro-Soviet Ethiopian regime. In Live And Become , winner of the audience prize at Berlin in 2005, a young Ethiopian Christian ( Moshe Agazai ) joins this migration to achieve a better life.
"Go, live and become" are the last words the boy hears from his mother. He's given a new name (Schlomo) and a new faith to which he never actually converts. Agazai, with his large eyes, hollow cheeks and shock of hair, has a striking presence. Schlomo's deep homesickness and terror of being found out are etched on his face.
His situation is also clearly meant to represent the plight of the Falashas in Israel, who not only face suspicion about their religion but also prejudice because of their colour and provenance.
I was torn between wanting to know more about the Falashas and feeling that any more plot would have made the film too dense. Shot mostly with available light, the nighttime scenes are hard to make out, and the story jumps from event to event, sometimes too quickly. But if you can keep up, Live And Become is well worth your time.