Review: Va, vis et deviens (2005)


Va, vis et deviens (2005)

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 being driven from their mountains by starvation. Once in the Promised Land, they face not only discrimination by their white race mates, but also the problems Israel itself faces: Scud missiles during the first Gulf War, the doomed peace agreement with the Palestinians and the unrest 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 the events in the outside world, in Schlomo’s family this is largely limited to watching television images. We do see Schlomo 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 implausible, but it does make mentioning historical events somewhat superfluous.

While ‘Va, vis et deviens’ is never sufficient as a chronicle of recent Israeli history, the film is convincing as a human drama. The farewell between Schlomo and his mother, the difficult early days in Israel, the clashes between him and his Jewish adoptive parents; all of this makes up a tragic story that the viewer can easily relate to. Between the characters we find a couple of beautiful portraits, of which adoptive mother Yaël and girlfriend and tomboy Sarah especially impress.

It is a pity, however, that director Mihaileanu aims too much and too ostentatiously at the sentiment, so that the film sometimes threatens to slide into a handkerchief drama. Also, the rhythm is not really consistent. While in the beginning all the time is taken to delve into matters, at the end events fly by at an uncomfortably high pace.

Despite these shortcomings, ‘Va, vis et deviens’ has succeeded in every way as a heartwarming and deeply human drama, which, despite the long running time, is never boring. The film also manages to convince in its plea for cross-border humanism. At the same time, ‘Va, vis et deviens’ has not become the crushing viewing experience that this material would certainly have had.

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