TREE #3 (2019, short film)
Greetings again from the darkness. Teachers can have a lasting impact on their students, and few teachers would knowingly prevent one of their students from achieving their goals or living their dreams. Teachers tend to have one key flaw. It’s a flaw shared with many. They are human beings. Which means decisions are tainted with personal tastes and preferences, and those decisions can sometimes be hurtful and stifling. The film opens with an exuberant and slightly anxious young boy named Itai as he prepares for his audition for the school play.
Newcomer Lior Malka portrays Itai as an enthusiastic youngster, filled with dreams of being an actor. He goes all out in his audition, and after his teacher Ms. Crystal (Kelly Ryan) politely thanks him for his efforts, a mature-beyond-his-years and confounded Itai see through her façade and asks what he did wrong. Her non-answer fills him with disappointment … a disappointment that reaches devastation the following day when he realizes he’s been cast, yet again, as a background tree.
Itai’s disappointment leads him to lie to his beloved grandmother when they FaceTime. She still lives in their homeland of Israel and fully believes her young grandson is living the American dream. As is often the case, Itai must fess up to his lie when his grandmother decides to fly around the globe to watch him “star” in the play. When confronted with the truth, she inspires him by telling him, “Put on a show. It’s who you are.” Her message, and the fact that he can’t understand why the lead actors aren’t excited about their roles – or even prepared – lead Itai to hatch a plan that requires the coordination of the other ‘trees’.
Israeil-born writer-director Omer Ben-Shachar co-wrote the story with Sydney Meadow, and they show us the power in staying true to ourselves, despite the closed-minds of others. Itai proclaims “I’m an actor”, and we are reminded that “a tree is never just a tree.” Sometimes the teacher provides the lesson, and sometimes the student provides the lesson.