LIFE ACCORDING TO EVE
Screening “Life according to Eve” and meeting with Amir Har-Gil.
The film was introduced into the curricula of the Ministry of Education to represent the topic of poverty.
Topics for discussion: adolescence, the poverty line in Israel, social gaps, stereotypes, inequality in education.
A moving film, arousing tears and laughter. The film describes the good life below the poverty line from the viewpoint of Eve, a high school student and her sister Sherry, a middle school student.
English translation is possible.
Length: 65 mins.
Life According To Eve-
Poverty as perceived through the eyes of an adolescent girl. Eve is a seventeen-year-old girl from a poor neighborhood in the south of Tel Aviv. Her father abandoned the family when Eve was a baby. Ever since the mother raises alone Eve and her two brothers: Itzik, who is in combat service and Sherry, whose Bat Mitzvah preparations are followed in the film.
Eve helps the family in every possible way, starting from a spate of works she undertakes up to the regular running of the household.
Eve studies in the integration framework at a prestigious school in Tel Aviv where she has to cope daily with the economic gap between herself and her classmates.
The film follows Eve throughout her daily life, part of which she films herself with her camera. Due to this intimate exposure, we witness Eve’s active part in the family’s life and her attempts to break out of the prejudice circle surrounding her. In between, Eve endeavors to lead the normal life of an adolescent girl preoccupied with love, studies and acquiring a driving license.
Despite her difficult life circumstances, Eve views reality with wisdom and humor. She walks around with self confidence, happiness and warmth. One cannot but love Eve’s character.
Behind Eve’s impressive character stands the no less impressive character of her mother. Eve’s mother, second generation poverty cycle, teaches her children to be satisfied with whatever they can afford and be thankful for the little they have. She is a warm, loving and accepting mother who does not spare the hardships in her children lives, but she does believe in their ability to cope with them.
Despite the poverty, this is a film about spiritual richness. Despite the father’s desertion, the film is about a close-knit, loving family. Despite the pain, the film is full of joy-of-life and humor. Despite the difficulties, this is an optimistic film, full of hope and belief in the possibility of breaking out of the poverty cycle.
How did the film “Life according to Eve” come to be
The producer, Udi Kalinsky from Pro-Vid asked Har-Gil to make a film about poverty in Israel for Channel 8. As a child Har-Gil lived opposite the shacks of Mahlul neighborhood in Tel Aviv and was familiar with the topic; although he himself lived in the “buildings”, he knew well friends from the shacks.
Ever since, he felt empathy and developed a sense of the importance of the topic. Being conscious of not having suffered himself from poverty it was clear to him that he couldn’t speak on behalf of people who experience it firsthand.
This is the origin of Har-Gil’s documentary cinematic approach of being “a fly on the wall” in the film; he does not interfere, he lets things happen, lets the protagonists live their lives, cry and laugh, talk to viewers in their own voice. This is why there is no voice-over and the director does not appear in any way in the film: we don’t know who he is, he is not part of the story; there are no stylized shots and no attempt to attract attention to the director.
Har-Gil is not interested in a simplistic approach that presents poverty by opening a refrigerator and finding it empty, of people who receive social security allowance and use it to buy bread and oil. Such type of poverty belongs to the third world, to children dying of hunger. Har-Gil wanted to point to a different definition of poverty, poverty expressed in the inequality of chances for children from different backgrounds to get an education and fulfill their dreams; children are not guilty of their poverty; the state has to provide for their needs in an egalitarian manner.
Har-Gil chose to film people of whom viewers will not think of as “poor have-nots” but as persons who don’t give up in spite of the steep wall they face.
How was the family chosen:
Har-Gil looked for families in which the economic burden falls on the shoulders of a woman who has to provide alone for her children. He found several such families, some much poorer than the Mish’an family. Having found the Mish’an family he realized his search ended; they fit the image he had in mind. He promised to respect their privacy and they agreed to cooperate.
60 hours were filmed; one hour was chosen for “Life According to Eve”.
Har-Gil had in mind a general script, not a precise scene-level one. He wanted to document their real lives starting with getting up in the morning up to the end of the day; he would arrive early in the morning and decide on the spot whom to join for the day: Nava, Sherry or Eve. It was most important that the family behave naturally; it took Har-Gil two days to get them used to ignoring the camera and get the filming crew (the director and the recorder) used to not address or respond to them or to Har-Gil.
In addition, he gave a camera to Eve, who is also a film course student, so she can document herself part of her life.
The messages intended to Har-Gil pass on
Don’t give up – was one of the messages; even though in Sherry’s and Eva’s classes there are kids for whom shortcuts are routine, there were no shortcuts in the Mish’an family’s lives – nevertheless they don’t give up.
Don’t give up dreams: the dream to travel, to take driving lessons; in other words not to accept, not to give in to not having, namely, to not attending a school in North Tel Aviv or to take a less interesting courses which might be easier to cope with.
The principal message is transmitted mainly through Eve but Nava’s story is exceptional; she possesses an amazing basic optimism. Nava works from morning till nightfall, she doesn’t sleep much, dedicates her waking life to her children. Nevertheless, she always manages to see the full part of the glass – another message transmitted through her in the film. This is a “rich” family, Nava explains to her children – that’s how she sees their situation. The warmth, the love, the intimate relationships in this family do not necessarily exist in all families, regardless of being rich or poor.
Another message is about the State and the education system not providing equal opportunities for children of all social strata. For example, Eve wants to pass her mathematics matriculation exam; the math teacher is unable to train her; in order to succeed, Eve needs additional help; she has to work to be able to afford a private tutor and then she is too tired and unable to study – a vicious cycle that creates a wall between Eve and her dream, not because Eve is not talented but because compulsory education does not fill her needs.
Another message concerns the communications media. The film challenges the mainstream media in which the voice of the Mish’an and other families in their conditions is not heard. They are not in acute conditions like suicide, nor do they suffer hunger and illnesses; alternatively, had they been millionaires, they would have been often interviewed in the media. Since the Mish’an family is not really at the bottom of the ladder, they are not humiliated, their refrigerator is not empty, no reporter, no Minister or Knesset member take any interest in them.
Ongoing Contact with the family
Har-Gil is in regular contact with the family. Eve failed her math exam and hopes to attend a repeat test.
Following the film, many people offered to help prepare Eve for the math exam.
Itzik, her brother continues his army service. He serves in the occupied territories, with all its’ implications. Sherry went on to high school and is getting along there.
Nava hopes to get tenure in her morning job this year.
Despite the poverty, this is a film about spiritual richness. Despite the father’s desertion, this is a film about a loving, close-knit family. Despite the pain, the film is full of joy of life and humor. Despite the difficulty the film is optimistic, full of hope and belief that it is possible to break out of the poverty cycle.
Script and directing: Prof. Amir Har-Gil
Production: Provid Co. Ltd
Editing: Ortal Bober
Photography: Nili Atzlen
Length: 65 mins. Israel, 2001
“Dear Amir, I wish to thank you for the interesting and important meeting you held with 1st year social work students at Tel Aviv University. The school offers students’ opportunities for exposure to poverty issues, to examine their viewpoints and help them crystallize their professional identity, especially since these issues are at the heart of social work activities. Exposure to “Life according to Eve” and the discussion with you before and after the screening are a unique and important contribution that cannot be achieved by any other means. The meeting with you obliged students to stop and examine their own attitudes, prejudices and emotional reactions. A great many of the students in Tel Aviv, like you yourself before you started working on the film, have as yet had no opportunity to encounter real poverty, people living in poverty. In the coming weeks, when they will go out into the field, I have no doubt that meeting you and watching your film will accompany them.” (Batya Pinchasi, Guide, School of Social Work, Tel Aviv University)
“Amir Har-Gil: I wish to share with you the reaction of 9th grade students at Beer Tuvia School who watched “Life according to Eve”. It is the second year we are watching it with 9th graders. The film is very sensitive and students watched it with great interest. The students connected to the characters; their world opened to the importance of documentary films. Discussions continued in the education classes after the film; students asked many questions and were most interested. Meeting with Amir Har-Gil added to deepening the importance of the integration issue and to the appropriate exposure to such type of films. The school will widen its documentary film watching activities to all levels. (Kochi Shalev, Social Education Coordinator, Beer Tuvia High School)
“We wish to thank you for enabling us to expose our students to the painful issue of poverty in Israel in such a truthful and real way. The moving film “Life according to Eve” and your preamble in which you revealed to the students the way that led you to choose the social message you wanted to express in your film, left a deep impression on both students and teachers that engendered a deep and fruitful discussion about individual’s ability to contribute to the improvement of Israeli society and its future in other social issues as well” (Social coordinator and educator, 9th graders, Yitzhak Rabin Education Center, Mazkeret Batya)
Here at the Film Department of “Kedma” Youth Village we make films. As a rule there are no problems concerning contents, since life provides us with good scripts. Our difficulties lie in the process of making the film; this is expressed in choosing the segments to be edited, the professional quality of filming and how to start the work in general. We watch films made in the past. The film “Life according to Eve” you directed is an excellent example for films we learn from. For instance, the segments in which Eve talks about herself while washing the floor, this connection engendered ideas about shots for our own films. We thank you for this and are happy to have the opportunity to write and thank you. We will be happy to host you here at the Youth Village’s Film Department any time.” (Film Department graduates and Naomi Schweitzer, Kedma Youth Village)