ONCE I WAS

By Avi NESHER

METRO COMMUNICATIONS - as PROD

Drama - Post-Production 2010

Set in 1968, an Israeli born teenage boy gets a summer job with a holocaust survivor who makes ends meet by brokering marriages and smuggled goods. The Matchmaker’s office is located in the back of a rundown movie theater, run by seven Romanian dwarfs (true story!!!) who were saved from the gas cham

    • Year of production
    • 2010
    • Genres
    • Drama
    • Countries
    • ISRAEL
    • Languages
    • HEBREW
    • Director(s)
    • Avi NESHER
    • Writer(s)
    • Avi NESHER
    • Producer(s)
    • Moshe & Leon EDERY, David SILBER (Metro Communications), Chilik MICHAELI (UCM)
    • Synopsis
    • Summer 2006: the second Lebanon war. The northern city of Haifa is being shelled by Hizzbalah rockets, while Beirut is being bombed by Israeli warplanes. It is a deadly war by proxy – a folly of history that will change the lives of people on both sides.
      Our story commences on a fateful morning when 52 year old Aric is summoned to his beleaguered hometown, Haifa, by his ailing 84 year old father. A mysterious lawyer, insists that father and son come to his office today, rockets or no rockets, refusing to explain the urgent nature of the meeting.
      Aric’s father fears the worst: what trouble has his son gotten himself into? Is there a tragic “personal” history developing within the context of a tragic “national” history? The father and son travel the ghostly war torn streets and finally reach their destination, in a section of town that used to be Arab before 1948.
      The lawyer checks Aric and father’s identity papers, and finally comes up with a shocking revelation: he has summoned the two to read the final will and testament of one Jacob Braid – an enigmatic broker of marriages and real-estate Aric worked for 38 years ago, and has not seen for 37 years…
      The Matchmaker – a holocaust survivor and a man of great mystery – has left the bewildered Aric a small fortune totalling several million dollars. Aric is shocked by the magnanimous gesture of a man he superficially knew so long ago, a man who has “disappeared” as a result of something Aric has done. Aric’s father insists on full disclosure. Why did a man who is practically a stranger leave Aric such a large inheritance? And what terrible “wrong” has Aric done to this man?
      As Aric and his father travel back home, they try to put together the elusive pieces and decipher the mystery.
      The narrative gently shifts to the summer 1968 – “the summer of love”: Aric is 15 years old and this will be his coming-of-age summer. He will learn much about friendship, loyalty, love, sex, obsession, betrayal and that slippery notion called “morality”.
      The banality of summer is disturbed by two new encounters. First, Jacob Braid - a tall, heavy set, Golem-like matchmaker comes to the neighbourhood, trying to scare up clients. Aric and his friends play a trick on the matchmaker. Braid – quite impressed by Aric’s ability to come up quickly with convincing lies - hires the boy to do very basic “detective work” for him: check up on prospective brides and grooms. As Aric will learn the trades of detection, he and his friend will learn much about the ways of love. They will try to apply some of these lessons to their own young life. The result may not be what they expected.
      The second encounter is a result of the appearance of the beautiful rebellious and provocative Tamara – who will spend the summer (much against her will) in Haifa. Tamara, daughter to an Israeli who has immigrated to Canada, has become too “wild” for her father’s likings. She has been shipped off to provincial Haifa, with the hope that some solid family values would rub off on her. The result is not what the father expected.
      As the summer unfolds, Aric’s budding friendship with the matchmaker, will lead him to explore an urban underbelly of holocaust survivors and Arab residents who reside in the poorest and most sordid section of Haifa. Bewitched by a cast of colourful characters led by seven dwarfs – survivors of Doctor Mengale’s horrid medical experiments in Auschwitz (true story!!!) – who operate a movie house that plays Indian and Turkish movies for the mostly Arab cliental, young Aric, an aspiring writer, discovers a reality much more bigger then any work of fiction.
      Concurrently, his tormented sexual obsession with Tamara will lead him into the deepest and darkest encounters with his own failings. The tragedy ridden matchmaker will try to stay one step ahead of doom while professing his motto: Love is always the answer, no matter what the question is. The quirky and manipulative Tamara – perhaps the embodiment of doom – will put a seduction scheme in play that will show its hand only at the very end of summer, just before she heads back to Canada.
      Aric great affection for his mentor, the matchmaker, and for the wondrous world of the little people, leads him to try and open up their “encapsulated” world to people from the “normal” world. This act of love and kindness backfires in the most horrible way.
      Thirty seven years later, the Matchmaker reaches out from the dead to send Aric one final message of love.
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