24 January 2011 | lor_
Inspirational portrait of a Tel Aviv school
It isn't often I get hopeful about the future, especially education and possibilities for underprivileged kids, but STRANGERS NO MORE is truly inspirational. I hope this well-made documentary gets consideration in the upcoming Oscar race.
We are presented with a school year at Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv, focusing on the progress of half a dozen students, and showing in the process the caring, "go the extra mile" attitudes of the faculty and staff.
Principal student covered is Johannes, an Eritrean refugee by way of Sudan. At age 12 he's had zero schooling and is painfully shy, let alone unable to communicate in either Hebrew or English at the school. We see his transformation, learning Hebrew, getting fitted with eyeglasses (a true necessity) and eventually serving as an interpreter in the Tigrit language to a newly admitted student later in the year. It's amazing and impressive progress.
His dad is also featured, a mild-mannered guy who just wants to make a living and support his family. When he meets with the principal Karen Tal to help him through the red tape to secure a work visa, he comments in halting English that he's come here (from Eritrea/Ethiopia and later a Sudan refugee camp) to escape finally from war and violence, and Tal kindly reminds him, hey - Israel is right in the middle of it! Political issues such as the ongoing/never-ending Israeli/Palestine struggle are not alluded to specifically in the film, since that is not what it's about. As the title suggests, it is about making a true melting pot (I live in New York City, the symbolic world melting pot of sorts) where foreigners can be integrated into a true community and given new chances for self-realization. For K-12 education, clearly this school is a role model.
Other key players, with winning stories, include Mohammed from Darfur, and the lovely Esther (with a movie star smile) from South Africa, both of whom qualify for the "Most Likely to Succeed" caption under their photos in a high school yearbook. Far more than the expected B'nai B'rith campaign film, STRANGERS carries a universal message.