Directed by: Radu Mihaileanu | 140 minutes | drama | Actors: Yaël Abecassis, Roschdy Zem, Moshe Agazai, Moshe Abebe, Sirak M. Sabahat, Roni Hadar, Yitzhak Edgar, Rami Danon, Meskie Shibru Sivan, Mimi Abonesh Kebede, Raymonde Abecassis, Elad Atrakchi, Shmil Ben Ari, Shai Fredo, Regev Jonatan, Shaul Mizrahi, Elias Nazich, Tomer Offner, Avi Oria, Meir Suissa, Itzak Tegenal, Shlomo Vishinsky
The international production “Va, vis et deviens” deals with a little-known event from the 1980s. Large groups of Ethiopian Jews are brought to Israel at that time after they have been driven from their mountains by famine. Once in the Promised Land, they face not only discrimination from their white peers but also the problems that Israel itself suffers: Scud missiles during the first Gulf war, the doomed peace agreement with the Palestinians and the riots in the occupied territories. To complicate matters, in “Va, vis et deviens” we are also dealing with an Ethiopian refugee who turns out not to be a Jew at all.
We have already seen such a mixture of personal drama and historical events in productions such as “La meglio gioventù” and “Heimat”. But where in the latter films the characters become fully involved in events in the outside world, in the Schlomo family this is largely limited to watching television images. We do see Schlomo very briefly in an air raid shelter and as a doctor in the occupied territories, but these events have hardly any influence on his character development. This may not be unbelievable, but it does make mentioning historical events somewhat superfluous.
While “Va, vis et deviens” never suffices as a chronicle of recent Israeli history, the film is convincing as a human drama. The farewell between Schlomo and his mother, the difficult initial period in Israel, the clashes between him and his Jewish adoptive parents; all of this forms a tragic story that you as a viewer can easily go along with. Between the characters we find a couple of beautiful portraits, of which adoptive mother Yaël and girlfriend and tomboy Sarah are particularly impressive.
It is unfortunate that director Mihaileanu aims too much and too flashy at the sentiment, so that the film sometimes threatens to slip into a handkerchief drama. The rhythm is also not really consistent. While in the beginning all the time is taken to delve deeper into matters, in the end events fly by at an uncomfortably high pace.
Despite these shortcomings, “Va, vis et deviens” has in any case succeeded as a heartwarming and deeply human drama, which, despite the considerable playing time, is never boring. The film also manages to convince in its plea for a cross-border humanism. At the same time, “Va, vis et deviens” has not become the overwhelming viewing experience that would certainly have resided with this material.