Under the Domim Tree

(Etz Hadomim Tafus)

Continuing noted Israeli actress Gila Almagor's autobiographical story, that began with the the highly acclaimed (and better) l989's “The Summer of Aviya,” “Under the Domim Tree” portrays the Holocaust anguish through the eyes of the catastrophe's most helpless and innocent victims, the children.

The film's greatest merit is in showing that the horrors endured by the Jews who survived the Holocaust did not with the close of WWII. Though physically freed, many continued to suffer in anguish long after the Third Reich's defeat.

Fifteen year-old Aviya, Almagor's alter ego from “Summer of Aviya,” now lives in an Israeli youth kibbutz with other troubled children who survived the concentration camps or were orphaned by the war. Tormented at night by nightmares of the Holocaust, the teenagers find refuge sanctuary and peace beneath the camp's beautiful Domim tree.

The picture intermingles four stories, each following a different youngster. Aviya searches for inform about Max Alexandrovich, her dead father. Jurek, a Polish Jew who survived a concentration camp, tries awkwardly to find love with Aviya. Yola, who believes her father dead, learns he is still alive and prepares to go to Warsaw to reunite with him.

Then there's Mira, a quiet, self-absorbed girl who doesn't fit in with the rest of the youths. She has lost her memory, but believes herself an orphan–until two people arrive at the kibbutz claiming to be her parents. Rather than rejoining them, Mira spurns them as imposters, and the rest of the children rally around her as she challenges her parents' claim in court.

Director Eli Cohen (himself a distinguished stage and screen actor) weaves the stories together adroitly, extracting powerful performances from his young ensemble cast, particularly Riki Blich as Mira.

It's constantly and abundantly clear that this is a personal story that Gila Alamgor has painfully lived and continues to struggle with. The movie plumbs pathos and humor, quiet introspection and vehement defiance, as Aviya and her friends come to terms with a past full of horror.