What is the Worth of Art?

Veronica Vega

HAVANA TIMES — The question in the title of this post was inspired by the Israeli film Haganenet (“The Kindergarten Teacher”).

Nina, a teacher at a kind of day care center, discovers the unusual talent of Yoav, one of the children under her care. At the young age of 5, and without having yet learned how to write, the child recites incredibly profound verses that simply come to his mind:

…Some say love
can be bought with money.
Some say love
is within hand’s reach.
Some say love
can be brought about by force.
But he knows that love
is only wind.
For of all the winds of man
this one is blown into the heart

without thought…

Nira frequents a literary workshop where her verses are considered banal and starts presenting the child’s poems as her own, prompting complex debates. Her aim is to have people take note of Yoav’s genius, tormented by the feeling that society is going to stifle his exceptional sensibility in the grinder of materialism, hedonism and idolatry.

Miguelangelo and the creation of man.

Yoav lives alone with his father, a restaurant owner and pragmatic man who has no interest in nourishing the child genius. “I love my son,” he says. “I want him to have a normal life.”

The teacher makes a personal mission of saving that inner voice and, in secret, prepares and presents Yoav at an adult poetry recital. The public reacts in an unexpected and frustrating manner. The father finds out about this, places the child in a different day care and threatens the teacher with her job if she tries any kind of contact with them.

What comes next is a kind of fall, caused by excessive proximity to the abyss. Nira, who has a good standard of living and a caring family, abandons everything and kidnaps the child. She rents out a hotel room outside the city, where Yoav recites a poem that reflects these drastic circumstances:

In life
there comes a strange moment
in which you learn to break
with your image of the past
because it no longer exists for you,
because you have to let go of it.

While at the hotel, the child takes advantage of the moment in which the teacher is taking a shower to pick up the phone and say: “My teacher has kidnapped me.” At the other end of the line, we hear only a dial tone.

Da Vince and the Mona Lisa

Nira, who notices this, tells him from the bathroom that she did everything for him, because “this world will erase you, it’s not made for people like you. In two years, there’ll be nothing left; you’ll be nothing but a shadow.”

Accepting reality, however, she gives him instructions to call the police from her mobile phone. Then she asks him to open the bathroom door.

Already dressed and standing by the child, while waiting for the law’s violent reaction, in a supremely innocent gesture, Yoav takes the teacher’s hand.

The film asks the question as to whether poetry is more important than the real needs of a five-year-old child, abandoned by his mother and in need of affection and safety. Without a doubt, no one has the right to kidnap the body where an incredible talent blossoms, just because the guardian of that body is willing to let the genius wither away.

The question that remains unanswered emerges when the teacher tells the father: “as a child, Mozart was raised by dukes and kings who would serve him sweets with their own hands, but Yoav is alone, in a world that hates poets.”