A 2018 Israeli Film Showcases A Key Period in Young Athletes' Careers
A Quick Film Review
I'm not sure what "17 seconds" refers to in the documentary 17 Seconds from director Alon Marom, despite what I think was paying close attention throughout. Perhaps a reference to potential crucial moments of time in the various sports events presented. No matter...the film pretty much accomplishes what it's billed as, namely an intimate look at the drama of emerging athletes exploring their futures at an elite Israeli sports academy.
Over the course of the film, we get a look at Wingate's aim of "raising the best athletes in sports", as the teens are pushed by coaches, challenged in training, and tested in competition. we witness the teens work through their struggles for motivation. And teenagers, they are...they're distracted from training (particularly by Gladishev, whose girlfriend is identified as a cause), they break diet and sneak in pizza (Even and Hershko), and have short moody fuses (again, the judokas). Abu Arisha faces particular challenges of fitting in as an Arab-Israeli at the school; his coach urges him to "choose between being an Arab or an athlete."
All four have talent, and represent Israel internationally in various junior competitions. But as the film unfolds, Hershko and Abu Arisha seem to adjust best to their athletic opportunities. Hershko wins a European junior championship, and we see Abu Arisha secure an opportunity to play at Jacksonville State in Alabama. Meanwhile, both Even and Gladishev struggle to live up to potential - Even frustrated by injury and failing to defeat a frequent opponent, and Gladishev disqualified at the European Championships, blamed on his lack of focus.
As 17 Seconds takes place in 2015, today we have the benefit to catch-up on where those trajectories have led since the film's release in 2018. Hershko is currently 21st in Olympic qualification rankings for Tokyo 2020. And after stints in the U.S. college system, Abu Arisha now is with Hapoel Be'er Sheva of the Israeli Basketball premier League. Meanwhile, Even's and Gladishev's careers seem to have plateaued. It's interesting to see those trends in 2015 appear to come to fruition. To paraphrase the indifferent Gladishev's prescient comment in 17 Seconds, not everyone who dreams accomplishes the dream.
17 Seconds offers a good "behind-the-scenes" look at an intense sports academy. And it also offers a universal coming-of-age story that transcends geography, as we see the young athletes work on their futures,. Even if they don't realize it at the time.