Category Archives: Israel

“Figs and Alligators: An American Immigrant’s Life in Israel in the 1970s and 1980s” by Aaron Leibel— A Trip Down Memory Lane

Leibel, Aaron. “Figs and Alligators: An American Immigrant’s Life in Israel in the 1970s and 1980s”, Chickadee Prince Books LLC, 2021.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Amos Lassen

When I first heard about Aaron Leibel’s “Figs and Alligators”, I was very anxious to read it since it coincides with many of the years I lived in Israel. I did not, however, think that I would be as affected by it as I was. All the memories of my years in Israel came rushing back and I laughed and I wept as I read. Simply written and conversational in tone, I could have been sitting in the same room with author Leibel and comparing notes.

Did you ever wonder what makes a person change his life so completely that he is willing to move to another country, learn a different language and become a part of a culture that is radically different from everything he has ever known? I am not sure you get the answer to that here but you do get insights into living in a war-torn country during a historical period. Moving to Israel  soon after the Six-Day War Leibel (as did I) goes through severe culture  shock. Unless you experience this yourself, it is very hard to share but he does so with all of the nuances of relocation and adjustment. Making Aliyah (the Hebrew term for moving to Israel) was a big step back then since it meant leaving behind comforts that so many Americans enjoy but which had not reached Israel. It also meant becoming a part of society that is foreign and somewhere between European and Middle-Eastern with new ways of doing things that are very different than we did here at the same time (no credit cards, stoves and washing machines were rare, a six-year wait for a telephone, compulsory military duty, the inability to stand in line and so on). It is a rude awakening that hits the new citizen all at once. But there are also great rewards. Leibel and his family (wife and three daughters were there for twenty years and those years were often frustrating, often gratifying and always challenging). It is very difficult to put into words what is  to be  “a stranger in a strange land” yet Aaron Leibel succeeds in doing so beautifully. Unlike the Israel of today, arriving in the first quarter of the state was very different. I went to build a nation, the home of my people and so I was willing to live with the sacrifices I had to make to be part of a new and vibrant society. So did Leibel but he also had his responsibility as a husband and father which made it much more difficult.

When Leibel met his wife, Bonnie neither of them considered Israel as an option in their lives. Aaron was Jewish, Bonnie was not. a move to Israel seemed very unlikely. She hailed from a solidly Protestant family, and while he was Jewish, he was ‘completely detached from the Jewish people. After converting to Judaism, it was Bonnie’s idea to move to Israel and the story begins. We read about learning to speak Hebrew and this is where the book gets its title. The Hebrew words for figs and alligators are very similar. I was reminded of riding on a bus in Jerusalem and still learning Hebrew. I told the lady sitting next to me as we neared my stop, “Excuse me, I need to give birth” instead of  “I need to get off of the bus”. The word for to give birth and to get off are very similar and I did a bit of mispronunciation.

 Leibel shares his experiences of living in Jerusalem and on a kibbutz, where he worked at an apple orchard, of serving served in the Israel Defense Forces for 14 years, of being recruited to become a spy by Israeli intelligence. We go shopping with him and we buy a house, learn about the educational system and largely forget about the Jewish religion. We watch Israel mature from a small, somewhat insignificant country into a country to rival others, a major military power and a scientific nation. We experience war and peace and war again, become familiar with the tactics of terrorists and deal with the bewilderment of Israel’s economy.

This is the Israel that was and I read with feelings of nostalgia and memories. Looking back can be quite difficult and I refaced so many of the problems that I dealt with while living there. There is humor and pathos on every page but above all else is the author’s honest retelling of a time that is now gone; a time when idealism ruled and was often fulfilled.

“The Pow­er of a Tale: Sto­ries from the Israel Folk­lore Archives” edited by Haya Bar-Itzhak and Idir Pintel-Ginsberg— Fifty-Three Folktales


Bar-Itzhak, Haya and Idit Pintel-Ginsberg (editors). “The Pow­er of a Tale: Sto­ries from the Israel Folk­lore Archives”, Wayne State University Press, 2020.

Fifty-Three Folktales

Amos Lassen

“The Power of a Tale: Stories from the Israel Folktale Archives” edited by Haya Bar-Itzhak and Idit Pintel-Ginsberg is a collection of fifty-three folktales that celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Israel Folktale Archives (IFA) at the University of Haifa— the only archive of its kind in Israel. It is a center for knowledge and information about the cultural heritage of the many ethnic communities in Israel.

Each contributor selected a story and each story the narrator comes from a different ethnic background, education level, gender, and length of time in Israel. With each story is an accompanying analytic essay. The folk narrative is tradition, but we see that it has been modified and renewed by each narrator. The stories include many different genres and themes and include mythical tales, demon legends, märchen of various sorts, and personal narratives. Contributors use diverse approaches to analyze and interpret the stories uncovering a story’s deep structure and its binary oppositions and more.
The stories have been translated for the first time into English and reflect Jewish and Israeli culture.

Traditional and authenticity come together and entertain us as we read. We learn of the folklore of various communities and we enjoy history in a new way. Fifty-one nar­ra­tors from twen­ty-five eth­nic groups, forty-one tran­scribers, and thir­ty-eight schol­ars from Israel and the Unit­ed States are included in “The Pow­er of a Tale”. Here are the tra­di­tions of Ashke­nazi, Sephardic, and Israeli Jews, along with Druze, Bedouins, Chris­t­ian Arabs, and Mus­lims. The great­est num­ber of eth­nic nar­ra­tives come from Poland and Moroc­co. Leg­ends about place, his­to­ry, sacred peo­ple, and mirac­u­lous sal­va­tion of Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty, myths, won­der tales, demon tales, real­is­tic nar­ra­tives, and moral and cau­tion­ary tales are al present here.

“LISTENNG IN”— Eavesdropping

“LISTENNG IN”

Eavesdropping

Amos Lassen

In just eleven minutes, director Omer Sterenberg tells the story of a soldier in an Israel Defense Forces intelligence unit eavesdropping on a gay Palestinian couple. The complicated relationship between the two fascinates the soldier, and forces him to confront his own sexual identity.

As two men are talking on the phone, their conversation is being monitored by a young IDF soldier tasked with their surveillance. When their erotic bond becomes apparent, the soldier faces a moral dilemma. The film is a powerful look at conscience, the police state and the human voice.

The young soldier listens in on the conversations of Palestinians and he hears one gay couple’s conversations that fascinate him more and more. He realizes that he doesn’t know whether he should follow his feelings.

 

“The Last Interview: A Novel” by Eshkol Nevo— When the Public Persona Cracks

Nevo, Eshkol. “The Last Interview: A Novel”, Translated by Sondra Silverston, Other Press, 2020.

When the Public Persona Cracks

Amos Lassen

A writer attempts to answer a set of interview questions sent to him by a website editor. At first, they seem to be usual: “Did you always know you would be a writer? How autobiographical are your books? Have you written any stories you would never publish?” Usually the answers he gives as measured, calculated and cautious. This time, however,  he finds he cannot tell anything but the truth.

Every question opens a door to a hidden room of his life and each answer reveals that at the heart of every truth, there is a lie—and vice versa. We see just how tenuous the lines are between work and life, love and hate, fact and fiction. As we explore the author’s identity, Eshkol Nevo’s “The Last Interview” gives us “a nuanced, thought-provoking portrait of a country at odds with itself.”

We read of the dramatic consequences of Israel’s wrong turns and disavowals and its betrayal of what “the promised land” was originally meant to be. By building a wall to keep Palestinians out of sight, Israel has done more than damage to its calling itself a democratic country and has also affected the sense of purpose and integrity of its citizens. Nevo shows  a literary confidence that allows him to view human nature and its habitus with ease and in-depth insight. We read of the paradoxes of love, friendship, parenthood, narcissism, professional success or failure, and the compromises that  mirror Israel’s situation.

Nevo pushes the boundaries of fiction and challenges the reader to reconsider their conceptions of the relationship between truth and fiction. The book is astory of loss, love, and friendship and a meditation on the borders between reality and fiction. Nevo writes about his reflectionson what bothers the human heart— love, truth, friendship, loss. We, in turn, consider how long we will be here in the world.

What emerges is that the subject of the novel, the author’s professional life is a combination of international book tours and teaching seminars for promising writers. He has lost touch with himself and, perhaps, with reality. His personal life is a mess and he is depressed. He has only two close friends: one who is terminally ill and the other has disappeared. He and his wife have grown apart and his marriage is in danger. His oldest daughter, has left home to go to a boarding school and he feels estranged from her. He has been looking at the people around him as possible characters rather than people. He can no longer distinguish between what they are and what he wants them to be. He fictionalizes stories about the people in his life and loses track of what is real and what is made up. He now has writer’s block and the only thing he can write is this series of answers to questions. 

Like the narrator who cannot distinguish between fact and fiction, neither is the reader able to do so. We never know if Nevo is writing about a fictional author or about himself. The narrator states that he is falsifying things when convenient so that even if we assume that the narrator is Nevo himself, much of what he writes is fiction. — which is what one would expect from an author who can no longer distinguish between fact and fiction. He eventually finds a resolution to his problems but the readers, do not. We are left to think about what is real here.  

“Places in the Parasha” by Professor Yoel Elitzur— Where the Bible Happened

Elitzur, Yoel . “Places in the Parasha”, Maggid, 2020.

Where the Bible Happened

Amos Lassen

When I first moved to Israel, one of the first things I did was to go to see the places that are mentioned in the Bible. Growing up in a Jewish household and a Zionist youth group, this was only natural. I just wish that, back then, I had been lucky enough to have Yoel Elitzur’s “Places in the Parasha”. It is wonderful way to remember what I had been taught and a fine way of knowing how to explore those places.

Professor Yoel Elitzur is a leading expert in the fields of Bible and Talmud, biblical and historical geography, and Hebrew and Semitic languages. In “Places in the Parasha”, he “analyzes archaeological and linguistic findings, peruses historical sources, and explores the derivation and meaning of names so as to give us geographic identifications and linguistic solutions to the mysteries of the Tanakh. We revisit the Garden of Eden and the Ai, Goren Ha-Atad and Mount Sinai, Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal among others. All of this is presented in the order of the weekly Torah portions. All of the material is presented concisely and clearly, with maps and pictures and we experience “the insights and revelations in this impressive work, and strengthen their connection to the Land of Israel.”

“Queer Jewish Lives Between Central Europe and Mandatory Palestine: Biographies and Geographies, 1870–1960”— Coming in January

Krass, Andreas, Moshe Sluhovsky and Yuval Yonay, editors. “Queer Jewish Lives Between Central Europe and Mandatory Palestine: Biographies and Geographies, 1870–1960 (Historical Gender Studies)”, Transcript Publishing, 2021.

One to Look For

Amos Lassen

I want to mention here a very important book that is coming our way in January.

“When queer Jewish people migrated from Central Europe to the Middle East in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they contributed to the creation of a new queer culture and communality in Palestine. This volume offers the first collection of studies on queer Jewish lives between Central Europe and Mandatory Palestine (1870–1960). While the first section of the book presents queer geographies including Germany, Austria and Palestine, the second section introduces queer biographies between Europe and Palestine including the sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld (1868–1935), the writer Hugo Marcus (1880–1966), and the dance critic Giora Manor (1926–2005).”

“The Memory Monster” by Yishai Sarid— Back to Poland

Sarid, Yishai. “The Memory Monster”,  translated by Yardenne Greenspan, Restless Books, 2020.

Back to Poland

Amos Lassen

Yishai Sarid invites us to journey back to Poland with a doctor of Holocaust history and a travel guide. The doctor becomes overpowered with “the monster of memory” as he reflects on the past. He questions the resistance to fate and in doing so, he adopts his own Holocaust character and is reminded of Israeli society as a culture based on the admiration of power, militarism and what he calls “herding”. Yishai Sarid writes about with the darkness in the heart of Israeli society making this a parable of how we deal with human horror and the memory of the Holocaust.

Our unnamed narrator suffers with his own undoing. As a young historian, he became a leading expert on Nazi methods of extermination at concentration camps in Poland during World War II and he now guides tours through the sites for students and visiting dignitaries. He hungrily devours every detail of life and death in the camps and takes pride in being able to recreate for his audience the excruciating last moments of the victims’ lives.

His job is both a mission and an obsession. He spends so much time immersed in death that he loses his connections with the living. He resents the students who are preoccupied with their iPhones who are not sufficiently outraged at the genocide of the Nazis. He even begins to discover  that in the students and he. himself, have a bit of admiration for the murderers and their efficiency, audacity, and determination. He feels that the only way to deal with force is by force, itself, and that we must all be prepared to kill.  We soon confront very hard questions on how to deal with brutality, how sides are chosen in a conflict, and how the memory of horror is dealt with it without our being consumed by it.

On his last assignment, he is to take a German director who wantsto make a film about “Auschwitz” to the Polish camp. He explains how the trips to the former camps have weighed heavily on him and how he sees his students, how he dealt with the Poles, how the separations from his wife and child hurt his family. He soon realizes that these trips have forced him into  a bitterness that did not stop at his own people, his own people and his own religious community. He describes how the Holocaust has increasingly become a kind of label from which everyone can derive the position that is appropriate for himself. He also admits that he himself has not only become a wearer of this label, since his travels have given him a good income but that he has become dependent on his employer – the Yad Vashem memorial. Here he found the recognition he wanted, he who never wanted to become a historian of the Shoah. He became a good narrator of the horror that he did not have to experience but which is also a narrative for him, that is made up of pages of knowledge.

Our narrator reports on his experiences in first-person as he investigates historical questions. He knew that the Allies knew about the concentration camps, but did not bomb any rail tracks to prevent the transports and probably because the Allies did not particularly like Jews. The hatred of young Israelis for Poles, but not for Germans, was a new idea for me. Again and again, he advises the young people that the Holocaust was initiated by Germans, not Poles. However, the camps were built in Poland. He is an expert who is confronted with horror over and over again.

Sarid brings us all the horror of the subject of Holocaust remembrance and its impact on a society and a people and this is frightening. It demonstrates how focusing on the contents of the atrocities and the technical details of the extermination, in fact, poisons our souls, while we are unwilling to face the real lessons that will require us to behave completely differently in the world and within us. His mind is shaken as he is required to refrain from talking about the really painful and important topics and messages, and so he focuses his guidance on matters that are easier to digest. Discovering that the details of the atrocities are much easier for his listeners than the dilemmas and moral questions that arise as a result of Holocaust research, he is forced to choose. The need to moderate his words eats at him causing him to understand that it is much harder for us to hate the Germans than to take out the frustrations of not being able to resist, fight back or deal with our Holocaust-era cooperation.  Sarid uses sophisticated literary tricks to share his sharp and important insights into what is happening to us here and now.

 

 

What we have here is a consideration of memory and its risks, and a critique of Israel’s use of the Holocaust to shape national identity.

Many writers have asked the question of where, or if, humanity can be found within the profoundly inhumane, and we see here that preoccupation and obsession with the inhumane can take a toll on one’s own humanity. In a sense, he offers an indictment of memorializing the Holocaust and a consideration of its layered politics. He does not apologize for Jewish rage and condemns the forms it sometimes takes. He explores the banality of evil and the nature of revenge as this is certainly a controversial look at the past.

 

This is an imaginative novel that is so based on the reality of our lives and breaks up the collective soul.

“A TRAMWAY IN JERUSALEM”— The Rhythm of the City

“A TRAMWAY IN JERUSALEM”

The Rhythm of the City

Amos Lassen

Israel is a complex nation of multiculturalism and we really see this in Amos Gitai’s new film “A Tramway in Jerusalem”. The characters seem to be trapped on a journey to nowhere, going round and round on seems to be an endless trip but they’re all in the same boat: gentiles, Hasidic Jews, Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Israeli Arabs, Palestinian Muslims and Palestinian Jews. Gitai shows us  the chaotic nature of these Semitic as they argue, laught, console, sing and debate.

The film begins with a woman singing an aria while a man plays the oud. In the backseat we see a man and his son who are visiting Jerusalem for the first time. At the same time, a group of Hassidic men chant a religious chorus. Made up a series of sketches, the film gives us a taste of Israel. The tram follows a path along the city and starting from the different points of view of the various protagonists that follow one another.

Gitai introduces us to strangers  who we get to know during their ride. The tourist (Mathieu Amalric) loves the sun and light and he is taking his son to visit the places where Flaubert had been, revealing however how in a more serious confrontation on the country he is unable to bring his interest in focusing on the reality of things there is the couple who must decide whether to divorce, a priest (Pippo Delbono) who speaks of God, a girl is going to her lover for a spicy encounter; a talkative woman provokes an Orthodox Jew, inviting him to look out the windows at the beautiful city instead of continuing to study the Talmud; a departing soldier greets his girlfriend trying to hold back the tears and there a girl who feels threatened by an Arab just because she is Arab.

There is another very important nonhuman character— the music. The different musicians who alternate along the way (the Palestinian rapper, the banjo player, the singer) are indeed characters who demonstrate a further way of living public transport. The path of the tram takes the different musical genres from one area of ​​Jerusalem to another, allowing them to come into contact with an audience that may not be used to them (including us). Music is a passenger on the tram as well as a  vehicle for a message of integration. Gitai knows how to transform this abstract element first into a concrete one and then into a metaphorical one— the various musical styles make up a sound backdrop of Israeli multiculturalism.

Traditional Palestinian music alternates with the songs of Orthodox Jews and pop sounds, while in the background the announcement of the various stops becomes a spatial counterpart to the time scan performed by the timetables.

In Jerusalem, the tram connects different neighborhoods, from east to west, and we see their variety and differences. The film collects a mosaic of human beings from this city which is also the spiritual center of the three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Gitai reflects on national identity and does so by inventing a limitation of a spatial nature (the film is shot entirely inside the tram that crosses Jerusalem 24 hours a day), and a temporal nature (every single scene is still in sequence shot, and in each sequence there are different characters, with only a few returning more than once).

“A Tramway in Jerusalem” shows us the progressive unveiling of the discourse: we move from apparently harmless dialogues around issues of banal everyday life, to then gradually understand that behind each of those dialogues, there is an obstacle, namely the arrogant belief on the part of the Israelis that they are second-class citizens, while everyone else is forced to adapt, even the tourists. The same anxiety about the control of one’s own territory is manifested within the tram, where there is always a guardian in uniform. The policeman – has the task of verifying order within a public vehicle, he is a militarized reality. We go from the Israeli assistant coach who does not let the new coach who came from Europe speak to the mother who complains of her son’s work and sentimental inanity. The dialogue between the French tourist and two citizens of Jerusalem with his compliments of Israel and their answers that include talk about the military  are meant to show that the forces of land support each other in perfect coordination.

There is a fragmentation of voices and languages ​​(including French, Arabic and Italian) that show that the ancient Jewish popular culture has been replaced  by the obsession

About Film Movement

 Founded in 2002, Film Movement is a North American distributor of award-winning independent and foreign films based in New York City. It has released more than 250 feature films and shorts culled from prestigious film festivals worldwide including the Oscar-nominated films Theeb (2016) and Corpus Christi (2020). Film Movement’s theatrical releases include American independent films, documentaries, and foreign art house titles. Its catalog includes titles by directors such as Hirokazu Kore-eda, Maren Ade, Jessica Hausner, Andrei Konchalovsky, Andrzej Wajda, Diane Kurys, Ciro Guerra and Melanie Laurent. In 2015, Film Movement launched its reissue label Film Movement Classics, featuring new restorations released theatrically as well as on Blu-ray and DVD, including films by such noted directors as Eric Rohmer, Peter Greenaway, Bille August, Marleen Gorris, Takeshi Kitano, Arturo Ripstein, King Hu, Sergio Corbucci, Ettore Scola and Luchino Visconti. For more information, please visit www.filmmovement.com. Visit www.filmmovementplus.com for more information about Film Movement Plus, the new subscription streaming service from Film Movement.

Sorry—at this tie there is not a trailer with English subtitles.

“HAPPY TIMES”— A Horror/Comedy

“HAPPY TIMES”

A Horror/Comedy

Amos Lassen

Director Michael Mayer’s “Happy Times” is a horror/comedy about a Shabbat dinner gone terribly wrong. Yossi, an American/Israeli businessman and his wife invite friends and family to their Hollywood Hills home for a dinner party that soon becomes filled with inflated egos, alcohol and jealousy. What was supposed to be a quiet evening soon becomes “murderous mayhem”.

Characters include a businessman who made it big and his wife, a real estate man who doesn’t succeed and his wife, a former lawyer who became a housewife and her husband a young kid, and a good actor who tries His luck in Hollywood and his African girlfriend. Most of the actors in the intimate production are Israelis living in Los Angeles: Ido Moore, Shani Atias, Guy Adler, Iris Behar, and Daniel Lavid, joined by Liraz Hammi who works in London, Alon Padot who lives in Austin, Texas and Michael Aloni is the only one left in Israel. This group, speaks Hebrew most of the time and works well together  and it is their chemistry that drives the plot from twist to twist through “witty words and jagged barbs.

The film can be seen as controversial. The acts of violence and atrocities will probably cause people to stay way, yet they also invite cynical self-criticism that is not too serious. The California sun replaces the shores of the Mediterranean, where secular capitalism is run by religious rituals. For example,  we see a shofar and hamsa displayed on the wall as household decorations yet they become improvised and deadly weapons. An evening that began with the traditional blessing of wine, kiddush, ends with kaddish, the prayer for the dead.

Michael Mayer, who was born in Haifa in 1973 and moved to Los Angeles, where he still lives and works blends comedy and tension with great success. His Yossi looks down on his guests who are an incompatible group that is connected with a relationship of interest rather than friendship. They try to hide their feelings of anger, jealousy and enmity towards the host and each other.

Trying to distance himself from his Jewish roots, Michael’s attacks on the concepts of religiosity and family fuel the fire that is already ready burn. When the group’s anger against Michael erupts, fights fueled by egos inflated with the support of alcohol, cultural separation between Jews and non-Jews, envy, greed, arrogance and lust become unstoppable. As events that started out like a classic bourgeois feast goes out of whack. Religion and family turn the twists and the tension begins to rise at the same rate as black humor through the criminal and powerful characters.

You can only imagine what extremes a meal can go to when a number of people from different origins sit at the table to celebrate the Sabbath. Even with all of the violence, this is a very funny movie with tension coming out of black and dark humor. Mayer brings a slapstick and sinister critique of all human, sexual, emotional, and economic relationships. None of the characters of the story, including the rabbi, are clean enough to ignore Mayer’s aggressive accusation. This point of view is also a self-criticism towards the contrast-filled Israeli microcosm set under in California instead of Israel.

The plot includes exciting secret clues about Jewish traditions, Israeli post-trauma, and Israeli communities overseas. Traditional values are made fun of and ​turned inside out. If a non-Jewish-Israeli director had made this very offensive film, it would probably be considered to be anti-Semitic.

“Happy Times” is an example of a chamber cinema that has been masterfully handled in cinema, and it is a tremendously paced work that is watched breathlessly despite the fact that it takes place in only one place. It is a very well written, well played, very successful black comedy that brings together a sarcastic self-criticism with a comic thriller. So can you tell what I really thought about the film? I hope not because I want you to be free to come to your own decision.

“CREATING A CHARACTER: A The Moni Yakim Legacy”— A Teacher

“CREATING A CHARACTER: A The Moni Yakim Legacy”

A Teacher

Amos Lassen

Moni Yakim was born in Jerusalem and began his career as performer himself, taking part in classics like Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and George Bernard Shaw’s “Arms and the Man,” but it is not his background is only a small part of the film. His heroes are Étienne Decroux, who created mime, and Stella Adler, who believed that actors must master techniques beyond their own knowledge and experience in order to portray a variety of characters. Moni became a teacher who gives over much of his teaching time to having his gifted young actors imitate mime and spends most of the class time in getting them to twist their bodies every which way. These gymnastics are the focus of the movie. We see his students yelling gibberish, or crawling on the floor learning the necessity of freeing the body. Yakim puts 90% of his energy into the physical work. He takes students beginning in their second year while his wife Mina works with the freshmen.

We have interviews with alumni such as Jessica Chastain, Michael Stuhlbarg, Oscar Isaac, Kevin Kline, Laura Linney and Anthony Mackie. We see former student Alex Sharp who went on to win a best actor Tony for his lead role in “The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-Time” when he was  a young man working in Moni’s class.

Moni Yakim has taught movement at the Juilliard School since 1968and is a guiding force for many actors, some of whom make brief appearances to celebrate their former teacher. The reunion between Yakim and Kevin Kline is very moving as the two embrace and talk about acting challenging each other in a game of pantomime. We feel the real, mutual affection and admiration between the two. Watching Yakim and Kline discuss and actually perform, takes us below the surface of Yakim’s core philosophy of acting: Movement is the most important tool an actor possesses.

This is a straightforward biography of Yakim’s professional life—starting in Israel, learning the art (and shunning the shallow entertainment) of pantomime in Paris, and coming to the United States to run his own company (with his wife Mina) before being recruited to teach at Juilliard. As intriguing as his life has been, the biographical part of the film shows us his central thesis about acting.

Yakim is, above all, a teacher whose legacy is the the success of his students and with this film we can see the actual theory and process of his teaching.