Israeli filmgoers know that living in the shadow of the Holocaust is still an important subject within Israeli society. The latest Israeli feature film to open in Israeli cinemas, Firebirds, directed by Amir Wolf, is a murder mystery, dealing with Holocaust survivors. (The erroneous English title being used in Israeli newspapers is Sandbirds.)
The film opens with an unidentified body found stabbed, partially submerged in the Yarkon River in north Tel Aviv. The victim has a number on his arm. A police detective who has been in disgrace is called back to the force and assigned to this case. The story moves back and forth between past and present as the detective discovers clues that help him identify the man and eventually the killer. We slowly discover that despite his age, this man was still good looking and charming and exploiting Holocaust survivor widows, taking advantage of their loneliness, telling fabricated stories from the past, building on their neediness and taking their money.
The pacing is a bit slow and even stilted for a crime drama. Perhaps the film should have been billed as a psychological drama. As the detective, who is himself the child of survivors, discovers that the tattooed number on the arm of the victim is relatively new, we ask ourselves, what would make anyone tattoo a number on his arm, faking his identity as a Holocaust survivor?
This is an intriguing story told on the background of the Holocaust, about aging survivors living in Tel Aviv today. According to an interview with the filmmaker, Amir Wolf, on Reshet Bet Radio, the film began from this simple story, on the background of the Holocaust, and moved from there to a homage to the three women playing the survivors in the film. The three women are Gila Almagor, Miriam Zohar and Devorah Keidar and the main character is played by Oded Teomi.
Firebirds is available from Israeli Films.