Nine-year-old Schlomo, the focus of Live and Become, the opening film of the 11th Mellon Financial Denver Jewish Film Festival, has every right to let out a big, exasperated "Oy vey!" The fact that he's part of Operation Moses, the clandestine and debilitating mid-1980s resettlement of thousands of famine-starved Ethiopian Jews to unfamiliar Israel, is hard enough. The fact that he's secretly Christian, his mother having renamed him and passed him off as Jewish so he can start a new life in Israel without her -- that's the stuff of a heartstring-yanking epic.
Growing up among a strange people in a strange land, Schlomo discovers his adoptive country's capacity for both prejudice and acceptance -- not to mention socks and running water. "This boy is trying to fit into a group that is trying to fit in. The film doesn't try to paint Jews as saints; it aims to paint the world as it is," says Eric Hüber, marketing director for the festival. "Bring tissues, because you will cry." The movie screens on February 8 (as part of the opening-night gala) and February 13 at the Shwayder Theatre at the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture, 350 South Dahlia Street; call 303-316-6360 or visit www.mizelcenter.org for showtimes and tickets.