An Ethiopian Gentile passes himself off as a Falasha during the 1980s repatriation of Israel.
Revisiting the assimilation themes explored in his 1998 drama Train Of Life, writer/director Radu Mihaileanu considers the extent of racial intolerance in contemporary Israel in this well-meaning but melodramatic odyssey. It daringly questions the Jewish sense of ethnic exclusivity. But once the boy matures into Sirak M. Sabahat, Mihaileanu pays less heed to notions of identity and concentrates on the medical student’s romance with Roni Hadar, disapproved of by her Orthodox father.
There are provocative moments, like Agazai’s immigration interview and adoptive mother Yaël Abecassis’ school-gate showdown with some bigoted parents. But intriguing elements, like Sabahat’s discipleship of a black activist, become lost in the soap operatics.
A wholly worthwhile enterprise loses its initial impetus and insight and becomes increasingly meandering and melodramatic.