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In a deft piece of programming, World Movies (the subscription channel screening a full international menu of films) offers three Sunday premieres in September that are thematically and meaningfully related; each tells a story about a boy whose life is dramatically changed by circumstance, reports Andrew L. Urban.

If satisfying cinema offers us a glimpse into the universal human condition, three Sunday TV premieres on World Movies represent a superb collection: Tsotsi from South Africa, Fateless from Hungary and Live and Become from France/Israel each tell stories about boys who must escape their circumstance to survive. Each is a very different circumstance. In Tsotsi, the poverty stricken youngster has become a thug; in Fateless the young Jewish boy is sent to concentration camp; in Live and Become, the young Ethiopean boy’s Christian mother passes him off as a Jew to enable his rescue by Israel from a Sudanese refugee camp.

The stories range across time and place (Fateless, Hungary, 1940s, Live and Become Sudan & Israel, 1980s, Tsotsi South Africa, 2000s) and the three boys are all very different. They also traverse a range of experiences, meet a vast array of characters and experience a variety of emotional journeys. But the common thread is the essential humanity of those who come to their aid, and indeed, their own internal mechanisms for survival.

It’s a singularly appropriate trilogy of films for our troubled times, reminding us that the strength of every society depends on the individual strength of each of us within it.

TSOTSI (Sth. Africa, 2005)
Dir: Gavin Wood.

David (Presley Chweneyagae) – whose nickname is “Tsotsi”, meaning “thug” – is a gang member and petty criminal in his late teens living in a shantytown outside Johannesburg. His life changes after a carjacking where he shoots a woman and prompted by a mixture of guilt and other emotions, steals her baby and tries to take care of it himself.
Sunday September 2, 8.30pm
Saturday September 8, 8.30pm

FATELESS (Hungary, 2005)
Dir: Lajos Koltai

Gyuri Köves (Marcell Nagy), a 14 year old Hungarian Jewish boy whose father (János Bán) has been ordered to report to a forced-labour camp in 1944 Budapest, follows a well meaning neighbour's advice and travels by bus rather than train to work, at a brick factory on the outskirts of the city. The bus is stopped and a policeman orders Jews off the bus and Gyuri is soon en route to Auschwitz, as the authorities round up dozens of Jews for deportation. His existence becomes a surreal adventure in adversity and adaptation, and he is never quite sure if he is the victim of his captors, or of an absurd and eccentric fate. He is befriended by fellow Jewish prisoner, Bandi Citrom (Áron Dimény), but nothing can shield him from the realities of the concentration camps – except an acceptance of his lot.
Sunday September 9, 8.30pm
Saturday September 15, 8.30pm

LIVE AND BECOME (Fr/Belg/Israel/It, 2005)
Dir: Radu Mihaileanu

At a 1984 Sudanese refugee camp sheltering Ethiopians displaced by civil war and famine, the Israeli secret service has begun Operation Moses, airlifting thousands of Falashas, Ethiopian Jews, to Israel. A non-Jewish Ethiopian woman finds a way for her 9-year-old son (Moshe Agazai) to join the Falashas, telling him to "go, live and become”. Renamed Schlomo, the boy is adopted by a loving, liberal Israeli family. However Israel, rather than being the promised land, turns out to be rife with racism and intolerance. Through an Ethiopian-community leader Qes Amhra (Yitzhak Edgar), the teenage Shlomo (Moshe Abebe) is helped to write letters in Amharic to his mother (Meskie Shribu Sivan). But it takes several more years, and some heartbreak, before the grown up Shlomo (Sirak M. Sahabat) can ‘become’.
Sunday September 16, 8.30pm
Saturday September 22, 8.30pm

Published August 16, 2007

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