|Directed by:||Dina Tzvi-Riklis||Rating:||TV-PG|
|Release Date:||2005||Running Time:||50 mins.|
|Language:||Hebrew (English subtitles)||Genre:||Drama|
|More Info:||Read Gadi Taub's book||Category:||Feature Films|
|Awards:||Official Selection, Istanbul Children's Film Festival 2007||Official Selection, Chicago Children's Film Festival, 2007|
A modern-day urban fairytale of magic and first loves, The Witch From Melchet Street is a wonder-filled story based on the book by Israeli author Gadi Taub. Equally appealing to children and adults, the film explores the magic, and heartache, of love at any age, when a young boy befriends a kind-hearted witch to pursue the heart of a pretty classmate.
“You can make her love me!” the little boy, Assaf, begs Penina, his spell-casting friend. “You can prepare a potion or a talisman to make her leave Itamar and love me.”
The Witch From Melchet Street is told from the perspective of the grown-up Assaf, remembering what it was like to be young and in love and the quirky friend who helped him through it. Plagued by her own broken heart, the three-hundred-year-old witch with a surprisingly youthful appearance finds it easy to sympathize with her little neighbor, who’s spending his summer pining over a bubble-blowing-bombshell who hardly acknowledges his existence. While the witch does what she can to help her achy-hearted little friend, she reminds him that love is a magic all its own that can’t be conjured up in a spell.
Nearly two decades after the summer that the star-struck little boy watched his pony-tailed wonder move into their magical neighborhood, Assaf is still gripped by his memories. Since then, Lianne has grown up and moved away, but Assaf never left. “When you live in the house you grew up in, your childhood is always right beside you,” he explains. “You buy cigarettes where you used to buy popsicles, you sit at a cafe overlooking your old school.”
Now, when Assaf spots his first love wandering through his neighborhood, he can’t help but follow a few steps behind her, keeping her hot pink dress in sight at all times. He watches her light brown hair drape over her confident shoulders and can’t help but remember the brassy little girl who, long ago, showed no remorse while breaking his heart.
The Witch From Melchet Street is a reminder of the magical feeling of being young, when a trip to the aquarium is a grand investment and washing a neighbor’s Volkswagen is a major job. The film gets all the details right, from red-popsicle-stained lips to the terrifying excitement of holding hands with a crush for the first time. Capturing the quirks and glory of the ‘80s, the film should ring especially true to anyone who remembers wearing oversized t-shirts, dreaming about light sabers, buckling only one overall strap, or wasting time fiddling with a Rubik’s cube. “I’d give her the present; I’d invite her to a matinee,” Assaf plots while sitting on the stoop. “But I couldn’t decide between Star Wars Episode Two and The Never-Ending Story.”
From a distance, Assaf’s youth seems rather ideal, but even the best childhoods are plagued by harsh realities. While he’s trying to watch TV, Assaf can’t help but hear the incessant crying of his mother coming from the other room; and when his parents awkwardly grope for words to explain to him what’s going on, the stress on their faces is enough to understand. Remembering that children are the keenest observers, The Witch From Melchet Street never presents Assaf’s family’s problems directly, but, instead, reveals them slowly through Assaf’s experiences.
Now that the grown Assaf is faced with adult hardships, he looks back on his childhood as a simpler, happier time. “Now we have cell phones,” he explains, “back then we yelled to our friends. And there was only one channel on TV. We didn’t know a lot of things, but there were a lot of things we did know.” And while it’s easy to be nostalgic for the past, his story proves that life and love are fraught with complications, at any age.