Fact and Fiction: Beit Avi Chai Launches Film Series

by Brian on February 10, 2010

in In the News,Reviews

Beit Avi Chai has launched a fascinating new lecture series at its Jerusalem headquarters. The program is called “Fact and Fiction: Diversity Within” and features documentary films followed by one-on-one discussions between the film director and Amy Kronish, a long-time movie maestro and critic who’s put together the series.

Monday night was the opening session and it featured “The Name My Mother Gave Me,” a tearjerker of the Zionist kind. A group of Jewish Ethiopian and Russian pre-army teenagers undertake an emotional journey to Addis Ababa and Gondar to explore the Jewish roots of the most recent immigrants to Israel.

In the course of the trip, the Ethiopians visit villages they haven’t seen in a dozen or so years and the Russians gain an appreciation for the Ethiopians’ Jewish history. “Don’t let anyone tell you there were no Jews here” in Ethiopia, one of the Russian teens declares. By the end of the film, these two groups – who were once was at each other’s throats – became a single bonded unit.

The most emotional moments of the film were when the group visits an abandoned synagogue in a remote village that still has Hebrew prayer books, and the meeting of one of the Ethiopians with his mother who he’s been separated from for 14 years. The moment is heartbreaking, however, as the mother shows little interest in her son who has come so far for such a bittersweet reunion.

The film’s director Eli Tal-El described afterward how difficult it was to make the film. Israel Television said they’d pay him for his footage, but only to use it as part of a muckraking documentary on the sorry state of Ethiopian immigration in Israel. Tal-El refused. It subsequently took him some five years to finish the work and only then when Beit Avi Chai stepped in at the last moment with some long overdue funding.

“The Name My Mother Gave Me” has played at film festivals around the world. A trailer is streaming online; you can also purchase the movie at the same site for $29.90.

Future sessions of the film series will look at Israeli development towns, ultra Orthodox women entering the workforce and the “secret” of Russian aliyah success. More information at www.bac.org.il.

This post was originally published on the Israelity website.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Andy Friedman February 14, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Love it.

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