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Chris Evans poses on the red carpet arriving for the European Premiere of the film Captain America: Civil War in London on April 26, 2016. Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images
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Chris Evans to Star in Film About the Mossad’s Rescue of Ethiopian Jewry

Does it matter that he isn’t Jewish?

by
Zoë Miller
March 24, 2017
Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images
Chris Evans poses on the red carpet arriving for the European Premiere of the film Captain America: Civil War in London on April 26, 2016. Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

This week, there’s been a lot of buzz about Captain America himself—that’s Chris Evans, to the uninitiated—thanks to Vulture’s profile of Jenny Slate (the two actors were an item for the past year). But here at Tablet we’re more interested in Evans’s newly announced turn as Mossad agent Ari Kidron, a character seemingly based on real-life agent Gad Shimron, in the forthcoming spy drama Red Sea Diving Resort.

The film (directed by Gideon Raff, the Israeli filmmaker behind the TV drama Prisoners of War, which was adapted as Homeland in the U.S.) recounts the true story of an Israeli reconnaissance team that decamped to an abandoned resort in Sudan in the early ’80s to rescue Ethiopian Jews who were trapped in the Northern African country. Undercover as entrepreneurs from a Swiss travel group, the spies were able to locate thousands of Ethiopians and then transport them to the Jewish state. In missions related to the one depicted in Resort, 22,000 more Ethiopian Jews were rescued via airlift.

“The feeling is that Sudan was one of our finest hours, the enlistment of an entire defense establishment for a truly altruistic purpose,” Shimron told Reuters in a 2007 interview.

Given that Evans isn’t Jewish—despite what David Duke may think from his proclivity for dating Jewish women like Slate—some viewers might criticize his casting as the lead. Others might argue that his role perpetuates a white savior complex. But in actuality, the film’s story doesn’t fit neatly into that paradigm, given that it recounts how a light-skinned Jew saved dark-skinned Jews who were being persecuted by dark-skinned non-Jews. The axis is not racial, but religious. Whether the film will successfully convey those nuances, and whether or not they will be lost on critics, remains to be seen.

As for casting an American non-Jew to play an Israeli Jew, well, if Eric Bana, another gentile, could play a fictionalized version of Mossad agent Juval Aviv in Munich, a decidedly darker, more controversial film, maybe we can all cut Cap some slack.

Zoe Miller is Tablet’s editorial intern. Follow her on Twitter here.

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