Preparing for the role of a lifetime

For Habima actor Doron Amit, all the world’s a classroom on the road to stage and screen

‘Hanna’s Journey’  (photo credit: Courtesy)
‘Hanna’s Journey’
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In Hanna’s Journey, a new movie about a German volunteer in Israel, a homegrown star shines very brightly: Doron Amit.
Amit, who is part of the Habima Theater company and has appeared in a number of movies and television shows, plays the leading man in the film. Itay, the character he plays, is a deceptively confident young teacher who runs the center for the developmentally disabled where Hanna, the volunteer, works when she arrives in Israel. His confidence masks sensitivity and torment, and eventually he and Hanna develop a strong attachment that changes the way she sees Israel and herself.
The film, based on a novel by Theres Bauerlein, was directed by Julia von Heinz, and is an interesting mixture of comedy, social and political commentary, and romance. Amit’s character, Itay, is devoted to the adults he works with, and doesn’t have much use for Hanna (Karoline Schuch) at first, since he sees her as a humorless, clueless do-gooder. But as time passes, he comes to respect Hanna for her hard work and her desire to understand Israel. And she is able to help him admit some difficult truths to himself.
For Amit, the role fit like a glove.
“I really connected to that character. Anything to do with teaching and education is really close to my heart.
I’m from Kibbutz HaOgen and I was always a madrich [guide]. In the army, I was a guide, too.”
He also identifies with the character’s dark side, which is hidden at first.
“There’s something in Itay that is wild, something that feels as if it is buried. He wants to break out of all the structure around him. He has dreams and he doesn’t know if he can realize them. He hesitates, and at first he stays in a safe place.”
Unlike his character in the movie, whose parents have a very specific agenda for him, Amit’s parents let him choose his own path.
“My parents just want me to be happy. They’re very supportive. My mother is a singer, she’s very creative,” he says. “It was never a problem when I said I wanted to act.”
Again, unlike Itay, who at first seems to hold Hanna, who was born in 1986, personally responsible for the Holocaust, Amit says, “I don’t have anger or prejudice against Germans. My grandparents were Holocaust survivors, and in my family there was a high level of communication about it.”
Many of the scenes in which Amit doesn’t appear are in German, so he received a copy of the script translated into English.
“It went through many changes. It was amazing to see how the editing made the story better,” he says.
He was able to appreciate the difficulties von Heinz faced as a European working in Israel, and admired her ability to adapt.
“She knows what she wants, but she’s not a control freak. She encourages everyone around her, she gives them freedom,” he says. “That’s the best combination for a director.”
There were moments during the shooting when the reality of life in Israel intruded onto the filmmaking.
“When we were filming in the Tel Aviv area, there were rockets from Gaza and the sirens went off, it scared them,” says Amit, referring to the German cast and crew.
“When we filmed in Jerusalem, there was another siren.
There was this feeling of nowhere to run. It was hard for Karoline [Schuch], we had to calm her down.”
Now that the film has been released, Amit is looking for new projects.
“Every actor here wants to work in theater because it’s steady,” he explains.
“You just can’t make a living from film roles... television can be a good living if you get a role on a series.
Television is the springboard for most actors here.”
For now, though, Amit is more interested in his work in Habima, where he has been playing supporting roles, and he hopes to appear in more movies.
“I’m waiting for big roles and when they come along, I’ll grab them with both hands,” he says.