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Review: The Child Within Me


- Eti Aneta Segev and Yaniv Amoday’s documentary celebrates the music of Yehuda Poliker and the complex person behind it

Review: The Child Within Me
Yehuda Poliker in The Child Within Me

Every music scene, whether in terms of location or style, has its own phenomena. Even though the Israeli guitar-based pop and rock scene is not as present or as recognised on the global stage as some other types of music coming from the country, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its heroes, stars and legends. Yehuda Poliker is certainly one of them, and he is the focus of the documentary The Child Within Me, directed by Eti Aneta Segev and Yaniv Amoday, which has just premiered in the Music section of Docaviv.

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The opening of the film, with black-and-white shots from backstage areas morphing into full colour once the star starts playing, is typical and even verges dangerously on the stereotypical when Poliker starts explaining how he becomes another person when he performs. Also, the title, which comes straight out of Poliker’s own mouth as an answer to the question of what keeps him going on stage, could have entailed a diversion into saccharine territory, but Segev and Amoday are more ambitious than that, and they are deft enough in covering their tracks. By the end of the film, the viewer will understand that the child within Poliker, as well as Poliker, the adult, are pretty complex.

The main framework of the doc, also shot in crisp black and white by Itzik Portal, is an extended interview with Poliker conducted by Segev herself from the special vantage point of being his one-time collaborator and his friend ever since. Poliker is a strong presence, a big man with a round face, an undercut and a “man bun” of hair as well as piercingly bright eyes, but he still seems friendly to the interviewer and, by extension, to the audience. The conversation moves organically and fluidly from one topic to another and is illustrated by a variety of archival material, such as home photos and videos, as well as clips from recorded live shows and TV appearances.

The first half is focused on Poliker’s developmental path in music, from taking a guitar in his hands for the first time in naval school to dropping out of school, playing in various bands, meeting Yaakov Gilad (with whom he would collaborate for the lengthiest part of his career), joining the band Benzene and going solo after the break-up of the group. This last move, and changing his music style from a blend of strictly rock influences to an intriguing mix of rock and traditional Greek music, opens up a number of new topics: his close-knit Greek-Jewish family and his parents, who were both Holocaust survivors and settlers in Israel; living with and being immersed in different cultures; his left-leaning world-view; his homosexuality and two-phase coming out (first to his family, and then, after his parents’ death, publicly); and eventually, the inspiration that led him to try painting, focusing on the eye-shaped patterns around him.

The topics that come up in conversation are both numerous and complex, which exposes the film to certain risks: the audience may get lost in them, or the movie may give the impression that it is only superficially touching on them during its 90-minute running time. Luckily, the directorial duo relies heavily on editor Shira Arad, whose work on selecting the material earned her a co-screenwriting credit and who blends the pieces into a smooth whole with a strong sense of continuity. In the end, The Child Within Me serves as a concentrated guide to an amazing music career and the complex, remarkable person that is Yehuda Poliker.

The Child Within Me is an Israeli production by Kastina Communication, in association with Yes Docu.

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