LIFE ACCORDING TO EVE
Life According To Eve-
Poverty through the eyes of an adolescent. Eva is a seventeen-year old girl living in a distressed neighborhood in South Tel Aviv. Her father left the family when she was a baby. Since then the mother raises her and her sister and brother: Itzik who is in combat service? Sarai, whose Bar-Mitzva the film accompanies.
The family’s economic reality is very harsh. The mother works long hours every day at several jobs in order to provide for the family.
Eva joins in the effort of helping the family in every way she can, starting from an array of jobs she undertakes up to the regular management of the household.
In the framework of an integration plan Eva studies at a prestigious school in Tel-Aviv, where she has to cope daily with the economic gaps between her and her classmates.
The film accompanies Eva in her daily routine, which Eva partly documents by herself with her camera. Owing to this intimate exposure we witness Eva’s active participation in her family’s life, her efforts to break through the circle of prejudices that surround her. In between, Eva strives to maintain the ordinary life of a teenager, dealing with love, studies and obtaining a drivers’ license.
In spite of her harsh circumstances, Eva reflects on reality with humor and wisdom. She walks around with self-assuredness, gaiety and warmth. One cannot help falling in love with Eva.
Behind Eva’s impressive image is her no less impressive mother. Eva’s mother, second generation to poverty, teaches her children to be content with whatever they can afford and be thankful for the little they have. She is a warm mother, loving and accepting, who does not spare her children from life’s difficulties but believes in their ability to cope with them.
Despite of the poverty, this film is about spiritual richness. Despite the father having abandoned them, this is a film about a united, loving family. Despite the pain, the film is full of joy-of-life and humor. Despite the difficulties, it is an optimistic film, full of hope and belief that it is possible to get out of the poverty cycle.
About the birth of the film “Life According to Eve”
Producer Udi Kalinsky from the Provid Co. asked me on behalf of Channel 8 to make a film about poverty in Israel.
As a child, Har-Gil lived in the buildings opposite Mahalul neighborhood in Tel-Aviv. Namely, since childhood he knew about poverty; although he lived in “buildings” he knew very well friends living in the “shacks”.
That’s how his feelings of empathy and the importance he attributes to the topic developed. However, he is aware of the fact that he himself did not experience poverty, hence, it is obvious to him that he cannot speak in the name of those who did experience it.
As a result, the documentary-cinematic approach adopted in the film is that of the “fly on the wall”, namely the director does not interfere, lets things happen, lets the actors live their lives, cry, laugh and persuade viewers with their own voice. That’s why no narration accompanies the film and by no means does the director appear in it: we don’t know who he is. He is not a part of the story, there are no stylized shots or any attempt to attract attention in this manner.
It was clear to Har-Gil that he is not interested in the simplistic approach that presents poverty by opening the refrigerator, it is empty, people living on social security allowance with which they buy oil and bread. This kind of poverty belongs to the third world, to children dying of hunger. Har-Gil wanted to point to a different definition of poverty, the poverty expressed in the lack of equal chances for children from different backgrounds to get an education and realize their dreams. Children are not to be blamed for their economic condition – the State should provide equally for all children’s needs.
For this film Har-Gil looked for people whom we will not treat as “miserable, the have not”; he looked for people who don’t give up in spite of the steep wall ahead of them.
How did he choose this family:
In order to find such people, Har-Gil decided to look for families in which the economic burden falls on the woman who copes alone with providing for her children. He found several such families, some far poorer than the Mishan family. When he got to the Mishan family he realized his search ended; the question that remained was not whether they are suitable, but whether they will agree to cooperate. He promised to safeguard their privacy in the film, should anything unusual occur.
The family agreed and they filmed 60 hours, out of which one hour was chosen for “Life According to Eve”.
Har-Gil had a general idea but not an exact script to the level of scenes. He wanted to document real life from the time they get up in the morning to the end of the day. To do that, he would arrive early in the morning and decide on the spot whom to join that day – Nava, Sarai or Eva. It was most important that the family behave naturally; it took two days to get the family members used to their presence, to ignore the camera, ignore the presence of the rest of the team (director and recorder), of Har-Gil and the team, not to answer them.
Furthermore, he gave a camera to Eva who was a cinema student, so that she herself would document segments of her life.
What messages did he want to convey.
The message Har-Gil managed to convey with this family is not to give up; also, that maybe there are no shortcuts in their lives, despite the fact that in Sheri’s and Eva’s classes there are children for whom shortcuts are routine.
Another matter was not to give up the dream: the dream about travelling, about learning to drive, in other words not to resign to what they don’t have, namely not to give up studying in North Tel Aviv or taking less interesting courses so it would be easier to cope.
The principal message comes across through Eva, but Nava is a wonderful story. She works from morning till night, dedicates her waking hours to her children – she does not sleep much… Nevertheless, she always manages to see the full half of the glass, a message that comes through her in the film too. She possesses an amazing basic optimism.
As a result this whole family is “rich” as Nava explains to her children. That’s how she defines their condition. The amount of warmth, love, connection and intimacy in this family is unlike what goes on in many well-to-do families.
Another message is the unequal opportunities for poor and rich children, a slight accusation of the State and the education system. In the case of Eva, she wants to pass the mathematics’ matriculation exams. The mathematics teacher is unable to teach her so she can pass that exams, hence in order to succeed she needs a private teacher. To do that she has to get work and subsequently she is tired, unable to learn; that’s a vicious circle between her and her dream, a wall created not because she is not talented but because the State, the Compulsory Education Law, etc., are unable to meet her needs.
Another message Har-Gil conveys concerns the media. To a large extent Har-Gil sees this film as going against the usual media trend.
The voice of the Mishan family and their likes is not heard. Had they been in acute conditions like suicide, hunger or sickness, or alternatively, were they millionaires, they would be interviewed time and again. But since the Mishan family is not quite deprived, they are not humiliated and their refrigerator is not empty, nobody is interested in them, no reporter, and certainly no member of parliament or minister.
Is Har-Gil in touch with the family?
He is in regular contact with Eva and the family. Eva failed her matriculation exam in mathematics and intends to try again.
Following the film many people offered to help with her mathematics studies.
Itzik, the brother continues to be in the army; he serves in the occupied territories with all the implications. Sheri moved from junior-high to high-school and gets along there.
Nava hopes to receive tenure at her morning job.
Script and directing: Amir Har-Gil
Production: Provid Co. Ltd
Editing: Ortal Bober
Photography: Nili Atzlen
Length: 65 mins. Israel, 2001
“”Life According to Eve”, seems to be the only meaningful project broadcast this week on Channel 2. An entire hour of television breathing real, local life. A lot of comfort from a comfortless hour.” ( Raanan Shaked, Yediot Aharonot)
“”Life According to Eve”, the film radiates strength and optimism.” (Ruta Kupfer, Haaretz)
“The definition of poverty in “Life According to Eve” sets a higher level for a society that wishes to define itself as a just one… It is an interesting, thought provoking document.” (Orna Landau, Yediot Aharonot)
” “Life According to Eve” the camera catches the family in some moving moments.” ( Arieh Din Cohen, Jerusalem Post)
“”Life According to Eve”. During the past New Year the camera entered the Mishan family house. For two months the daily routine of the family was documented in its moments of joy and sadness, in the fly on the wall style that turns viewers into partners having a glimpse of what’s going on.” ( Dorit Sarid, Yediot Aharonot)
“”Life According to Eve” describes entire fragments of life without intervening, without “staging”. It is a reality in which laughter, tears and a lot of love are the source of strength, the daily spice that enables going on, moving forward… human moments that are the small dramas of life are disclosed.” (Yoram Mark-Reich, Yediot Haifa)
” “Life According to Eve”, an especially beautiful film, definitely worth seeing.” (Anat Bar-Lev, La’Isha)