Scaffolding is a debut film by Matan Yair. It tells the story of a high school senior in Petah Tikva named Asher, who is struggling to finish school with a matriculation certificate. He is one of the kids for whom school is not so easy – he is barely literate and he is tested orally in the matriculation exams. We who live in middle class communities rarely meet this type of youngster– he is overly self-confident, always speaking up and telling you what he thinks, sometimes violent, and never quite understands the societal limits to his impulsiveness.
Asher’s domineering and somewhat cruel father owns a scaffolding business and Asher is learning the business, helping out in all of his spare time. His father doesn’t understand how finishing high school will help his son in his future, so he discourages him from studying for the exams. The Hebrew word for scaffolding is pigumim, which is a pun -- it is not only the buildings that they fix which are in bad shape, but also in desperate need of fixing is the society which allows schools to mistreat kids at the margins the way that this school does.
Asher and his friends have a new teacher for literature, who tries very hard to understand them and is able to communicate with them. Indeed, he is a heroic teacher, reaching out to youngsters in trouble in ways that most teachers cannot succeed in doing. As a result, Asher suddenly wants to be the first in his family to finish high school. But things are not so simple and after tragedy strikes, we wonder what will happen to Asher.
In his opening remarks at the premiere screening last night at the Jerusalem Film Festival, the filmmaker talked about his own experiences as a high school literature teacher, and his own fear that after completing high school, his students will never again read plays, short stories, or poetry. This fear was the motivating force that was behind his writing the script for this excellent film, which was also screened recently at the Cannes Film Festival, and which gave him the impetus to use all non-professional actors, based on students he knew, when casting the high school students.
Scaffolding -- another film supported by the Gesher Multi-Cultural Film Fund – is a compelling and eye-opening story about Israeli high school kids who live on the margins, desperately wanting to learn like everyone else but years of illiteracy have taken their toll, leading them to a high school experience as juvenile delinquents. It is also a story about a teacher who succeeds in making a difference in kids’ lives, reminding us of the power of good educators to help shape the future of their students.
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