The strengths of this award-winning Israeli film are the screenplay and the acting performances. The difficult and complex father-son relationship is poignant. The acting performances by Asher Lax as the irascible youth and Ya’acov Cohen as his hard-as-nails father stand out.
At the age of 19, Asher Lax (Asher Lax) is in his last year of high school. He is in a class for youths with behavioural problems and needs to pass his history and literature tests to leave school with at least a minimum of qualifications. Asher’s parents are divorced and he lives and works with his domineering father Milo (Ya’acov Cohen). Milo owns a small company in the building trade. He is an ex-convict who sees life as a struggle for survival through hard physical work and a constant vigilance against others one cannot trust. His “jokes” are reflect his disappointment with his failed marriage. Milo seems as cold as ice and doing what he must do to survive and trying to inculcate his philosophy into his only son. Asher is accepting and even submissive towards his tough and sometimes violent father, who makes no secret that he sees no value in formal education and qualifications. At school, Asher is prone to disruptive behaviour and violent outbursts. When Rami (Ami Smolartchik) a dedicated, frustrated and sensitive man – in everything the opposite of Asher’s father - begins to teach Asher’s class in history and literature, he manages to make a connection to Asher and the other difficult youths. But then Asher comes under additional pressure, when his father goes to hospital for cardiac surgery and leaves him in charge of the business. Things take a dramatic turn that will test Asher to breaking point.
The strengths of this award-winning Israeli film are the screenplay and the acting performances. The difficult and complex father-son relationship is poignant. The acting performances by Asher Lax and Ya’acov Cohen as his hard-as-nails father stand out. The drama which could have easily taken the path of redemption by the “right” kind of teacher is grittier and more challenging than that. These strengths outweigh the weaknesses in the film’s cinematography.
This is writer director Matan Yaïr’s first feature film. He wrote and produced during his sabbatical year in his teaching job. Asher Laks was one of his students in real-life and together with seeing the young Robert de Niro in films like Taxi Driver, inspired Matan to write his screen-play. He approached Laks to see whether he could play a character like his real-life self on screen. So, the story of the making of Scaffolding would yield a good screen-play, too. Matan Yaïr has now returned to teaching and one can only wish that making this thoughtful and thought-provoking film has helped him to build up the resilience he needs to live with the frustrations and challenges of his day-job.
Film-making is a truly international business these days. The Polish producers who recognized the universality of the themes of this film and were not deterred by its being clearly situated in Israeli society and its education system are to be congratulated for their courage. The positive reception of “Scaffolding” at the Toronto and Zurich Film Festivals is their just reward. "Scaffolding" can be seen in London in November at the 2017 UK Jewish Film Festival.
Asher (right) and his teacher Rami