Directed by Radu Mihaileanu, starring Moshe Agazai, Meskie Shibru Sivan, Mimi Abernesh Kebede, Yaël Abercassis, Roschdy Zem, Moshe Abebe, Sirak M Sabahat, Roni Hadar, Yitzhak Edgar and Ranni Danon.
Radu Mihaileanu's dramatic movie tells the tale of Schlomo (Agazai), a nine-year-old Ethiopian boy in a Sudanese refugee camp in the 1980s. The boy's mother is so anxious for him to have a better quality of life that she sends him away with a group of Ethiopian Jews, or Falashas, who are being evacuated to Israel. Schlomo pretends to be the son of a Jewish woman named Hana (Kebede) who has lost her entire family, including her son, to sickness and famine.
Once in Israel, Schlomo must keep the fact that he isn't Jewish secret in order to obey his mother's parting command to "go, live and become" and so he won't be sent back to the refugee camp. When Hana dies just after their arrival in Israel, Schlomo must face life in this strange new country alone. He becomes a good student, learning Hebrew quickly and trying to fit into his new life, but his love for his mother makes it difficult to move on.
Even when he is adopted by Yaël and Yoram Harrari (Abercassis and Zem) and given a loving home, Schlomo's desire to see his real mother again remains strong and his attempts to balance that longing with the wish to accept his current life leave him frustrated and angry. As he grows up, Schlomo's integration into Israeli life becomes easier. He falls in love with a Jewish girl (Hadar) and studies his adopted religion, eventually becoming a doctor. But his love for his mother never wanes and the film's power lies in that unbreakable bond.
Moshe Agazai, Moshe Abebe and Sirak M Sabahat give compelling performances as Schlomo at different stages in his young life, particularly Agazai as the confused and angry Schlomo we meet early in the film. The early part of the film is also the most fluid, with Schlomo beginning his new life and attempting to adjust to it. Later scenes, where he is a teenager and then an adult, seem disjointed and don't add as much to the story as they should.
'Live and Become' is a moving story of the ties that bind a child and his mother, but it's overlong and the plot could have been simplified a little. Some of the impact is lost because of this, but it's certainly a film that will tug at the heartstrings.