Fed up with the image of Ethiopian Jews among the Israeli public and the glass ceiling stopping Ethiopian actors from fulfilling their potential in Israel theater and cinema, Shmuel Beru decided to write a screenplay to break down those barriers. The result was an award-winning film about the fictional Zrubavel family, Israelis of Ethiopian origin.
As part of the Library’s continuing Israeli Film Series, Beru will discuss his film “Zrubavel” at noon on Tuesday, Feb. 3
“Zrubavel,” the first feature-length Israeli drama created by Ethiopian-Israeli filmmakers, centers on a multigenerational family of Ethiopian émigrés. It portrays the younger generation trying to assimilate with Israeli culture and disregarding the customs cherished by their elders.
Israel actress and vocalist Meski Shiberu-Sivan will perform at the event. Born in Ethiopia and a graduate of Beit Zvi Theater School Tel Aviv, she blends modern Israeli music with traditional Ethiopian influences.
Born in a village in northern Ethiopia, Beru and his family came to Israel under “Operation Moses,” the covert removal of Ethiopian Jews from Sudan during a famine in 1984. Their journey began with an exhausting two-month trek on foot from their village in Ethiopia to a refugee camp in Sudan, where they had to wait for about year, in harsh conditions, until they boarded a plane that brought them to Israel. Beru was 8 years old.
After completing his army service as an actor in the Israel Defense Forces Theater Company, Beru studied political science and theater at Haifa University. In 1996, he produced a one-man play called “Ha'ish Hamedaber Im Atzmo” (“The Man Who Talked to Himself”). He made a name for himself in the Ethiopian community with a standup comedy routine, but found it difficult to succeed in Israeli theater.
With the help of friends and volunteers, he filmed a 10-minute pilot for his screenplay “Zrubavel” and subsequently received financial backing from the Israel Film Fund and the Gesher Foundation. With the help of Israeli producer Mark Rosenbaum, the low budget film was made. In October 2008, the film won the Sharon Amrani Television Drama Award
For more than a decade, the Embassy of Israel has been presenting the Library of Congress with moving-image material to complement more than 100 items in the Library’s Embassy of Israel collection. First presented to the Library in 1997 by Ambassador Eliahu Ben-Elissar, the collection is made possible under the terms of a Feb. 19, 1950, agreement between the United States and Israel (Treaties and Other International Acts Series 2169), under which the official publications of Israeli government agencies are made available through the Library of Congress.
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