Radu Mihaileanu (Train of Life) directs this monumental drama about a young Ethiopian boy from a Sudanese refugee camp who is transported to Israel as part of Operation Moses, during which 8,000 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted in 1984 to begin new lives.
The boy’s mother (Meskie Shibru Sivan) has already lost a child to starvation. Seeing Operation Moses as a last chance to save her son’s life, she makes him pretend to be a Jewish boy so he can be sent to Israel. In a torturous split second, she sends him away, exhorting him to "Go, live and become!"
The two secrets the little boy, Shlomo, carries with him--of not being born a Jew and not being an orphan--will haunt him throughout the new life he begins in Israel. He is adopted by a Mizrahi family, complete with pretty mom (Yaël Abecassis), loving and bumbling dad (Roschdy Zem), a sister, a brother and a socialist kibbutznik grandpa. Shlomo is mistrustful at first, but ultimately forms strong bonds with his family, who are indignant at the racism and xenophobia he faces from some Israelis. But he can never forget his biological mother in Africa and turns to an Ethiopian spiritual leader in Israel to help him cope with his internal conflict.
The film’s grand sweep follows Shlomo as he grows up, falls in love and serves in the army, but he is plagued by doubts about himself. His life begs the question: Who is a Jew? Mihaileanu takes this and other complex issues-- immigration, racism, religious intolerance--and weaves them seamlessly into one young man’s epic quest for his roots and identity.
Winner of the 2006 César for Best Original Screenplay and both the Panorama Audience Award and Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the 2005 Berlin International Film Festival, Live and Become features stellar performances from Moshe Agazzi, Moshe Abebe and Sirak M. Sabahat, the three actors who play Shlomo at different ages.