DOCUMENTARY OF A DISABLE IN A WHEELCHAIR
REALITY MAKES THE BEST FAIRYTALE
Tzvika Vloch, who is now making his second sequel film of the Lod Municipality elections to follow his first and greatly successful documentary “I Came, I Saw, I Left (the 1998 elections), has shown us, the Lod people in particular and the Israeli nation at large, what a sensitive person he is, in his documentary “Haim Lev”, depicting a disabled confined to his wheelchair and a top tennis player, and revealing a reality so very different to the one we know. The film was first aired by Channel 1 in December 2001, and replayed three weeks ago. Replaying such a documentary in less then a year’s interval is considered – as we have often mentioned - quite an achievement for its maker, Tzvika Vloch, director and cameraman, who has become a part of Lod’s daily life. The locals took to him in no time at all, for his sociable personality on the one hand, and his profound sensitivity for human life on the other. This attitude of his is highly noted in filming Haim Lev, where he takes a whole different approach to what we had expected. He gives the stage and spotlights to his characters while he takes the backstage. He lets them tell their tale in their own words, motions and daily conduct without interfering, even in their intimate moments.
The viewer totally identifies with the character, senses it and is thrilled by it to the point of tears.
The authenticity with which Vloch presents the characters is the secret of his charm and successfulness. But above all, we are in awe of his very special talent to get to these very moving humane stories. Like a surgeon skillful with his scalpel and surgical scissors he open his characters to the camera and convey their innermost personal minutes, their pains, struggles hardships and in fact, everything. This is not a film in the sense of directing scenes or acting for the camera. It is genuine, authentic, live.
In this hectic day and age of endless Intifada, increasing unemployment, shaky economy, a world war around the corner and many such other misfortunes, how can we not look into this tale, see and rub out eyes and ask over and over again: Is that for real or is it a mere fantasy?
To listen to Haim Lev seated in his wheelchair and reassuring his friends that every night he goes to bed with a sincere hope he would get up on his own two legs and that this thought alone keeps him going and fills him with optimism and joy of life – is almost inconceivable. Besides, look at his name – Haim [life] Lev [heart] – life and heart put together for a person that seems a wrack but is nowhere near it, no with a capital N.
Against all odds and expectations we laymen have of such a person, he lives his life in blissful happiness and inexplicable joyfulness. He never complains nor grumbles, nor is he angry with anybody. Pure love, period! He has also found a solution to his handicap – the tennis. His diligence and perseverance led him to international accomplishments as a team player of the Israel Handicap Team as far as winning the world cup.
But the prejudice and the deeply rooted myths he was unable to beat, not entirely that is. The farfetched love for the beautiful and intelligent Sharon who could have dated, bonded with and marry whoever she chose, but for whom the encounter with Haim Lev the man and the human being had such an impact that her soul bonded with his to the point of matrimony. She is blind to his physical handicap and his disability, seeing only his soul and the person within. As she puts it: “A thousand healthy men are not worth Haim’s great heart”.
This relationship broke Sharon’s family who could not come to terms with the fact that their daughter is to be married to a disabled in a wheelchair. They were not willing to even meet him and see him. Their veto was automatic and total, as far as breaking off with their daughter. They did not show up for the wedding and Sharon’s mother announced publicly that as far as they are concerned they only have 3 children – Sharon was no longer considered a family member.
If anything did break Haim throughout the making of the film, it was this bitter fact of being banned by her family without ever meeting him. He was banned for his disability, sacrificed on the alter of the Israeli society’s conventions, its intolerance and bias to the other and the dissimilar. A telephone conversation with Sharon’ father led nowhere. The father informed him he was not furious with him but with his daughter for having disobeyed him. The break-off did not break the couple who had gotten married in a grand and lavish wedding ceremony attended by lots of friends, and are now living and a marital bliss.
Tzvika Vloch deals with hot topics presenting traits of a society that is modern on the one hand but charged with conflicts on the other. This is the Israeli society – unable to cope with reality so we repress it and put it aside as if irrelevant, but it keeps popping up, slapping us in the face and reflecting the ugliness of our society.
...But we also have the beauties in our society – Haim’s worthy and successful management of his disability, his relationship with Sharon. Against all odds and expectations she saw Haim the person, was not deterred by his disability and married him, despite the heavy price of being banned by her family, and today they embrace a lovely baby girl.
An astonishing happy-ending found only in fairytales, but Tzvika Vloch proved that fairytales do exist in our harsh factuality and for that we owe him thanks.
Now we await his second documentary of the Lod elections, focusing on the elected mayor – the late Maxim Levi.
Tzvika Vloch extends his condolences to the Levi family.