Arts & Culture

“Live and Become”: An “Exodus” for Modern Israel?

Exodus is practically a sixth book of Moses for many American Jews, but we can probably all agree that its vision of Israel could use an update. I’m not even talking about the film’s depiction of Israeli Arabs (all both … Read More

By / February 1, 2008

Exodus is practically a sixth book of Moses for many American Jews, but we can probably all agree that its vision of Israel could use an update. I’m not even talking about the film’s depiction of Israeli Arabs (all both of them) – I just mean that Israel’s modern population consists of people whose parents fled continents other than Europe. So when The New York Times says Live and Become, an Israeli epic about an African immigrant, “aspires to be something like a contemporary Exodus from an outsider’s point of view,” that sounds like a good thing.

Unfortunately, the Times isn’t convinced – a shame not only because we could use some good Ethiopian Jewish stories, but also because the movie LOOKS really excellent. Its hero is a Sudanese boy whose mother, in a desperate attempt to help him escape their refugee camp, sneaks him onto an Israel-bound plane of Ethiopian Jews. The boy, now called Shlomo, gets adopted by a French-Israeli couple and grows up as a black Jew, facing casual racism and ongoing questions about his Jewish identity.

On Rotten Tomatoes the film garnered an average rating of 84 out of 100 from an audience of mostly international reviewers, which gives me hope because I really want to like this movie. But it’s hard to get past details like this:

Armand Amar’s score, a wailing pastiche of Middle Eastern and Western styles, helps evoke his suffering and longing, but it is both annoyingly repetitive and, like Shlomo’s monologues to the moon, mawkish.

Monologues to the moon? Really? Maybe for now we should stick to Paul Newman.

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