Go for Zucker! is a comedy film directed by Dani Levy that was released in 2004. The film portrays the story of a family divided by the Berlin Wall emotionally and physically. The division provides the basis for conflict between Jackie Zucker – a pool shark – and Samuel Zuckerman, his orthodox Jewish brother. The death of their mother brings them together to uphold the traditional burial right of shivah in order to receive their portion of her estate. However, Jackie plays cunning tricks in order to pay off his debts and earn his half of the inheritance his mother, ultimately bringing the family into his shady dealings to help the family come out of shivah with the inheritance they feel they deserve. Go for Zucker! is a vehicle for discussion of East/West German conflict caused by the creation of the Berlin Wall.
The film is set 14 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, placing the story in 2003. The context of the film is important due to that fact that it is indicative of how the fall of the Berlin wall still impacts families almost a decade and a half after reunification began in Germany. Jackie is affiliated with the “East” and is often referred to as communist because he was abandoned in the East at a sports school when the wall was constructed. This is juxtaposed against Samuel, who is a committed orthodox Jew and is representative of the “West.” The schism caused by the creation of the Berlin Wall is played out by the brothers’ refusal to talk to each other and reconcile their differences. The wall is still very much intact for the family. However, instead of a political powerhouse such as the United States of America shouting “Tear down this wall!” it is Rebecca Zuckerman’s will inciting a fight to tear down the emotional wall built by familial conflict. Thus, Go for Zucker! uses family as an analogy for the trauma caused by the formation of the FRG and GDR.
The film denounces the politicization of family and promotes the emotional reparations of German citizens in a humorous way. It is the lackluster “typical reunification loser” against the successful Western Orthodox Jew. Upon the news that Samuel is to arrive for Rebecca’s burial – Jackie and his wife Marlene rush to appear to be Jewish. A woman in a Jewish market comments “It is never too late to become Jewish!” juxtaposing the positivity of the Jewish community against the irony of the Zucker’s non-adherence. However, the game is up when Samuel’s wife Golda notes that Marlene is “goy” or non-Jewish. For all their attempts the Zuckers cannot conform to Jewish expectations. But they’re willing to learn and pretend. Gradually, the audience can see Jackie slowly assuming a new identity. He begins to accept himself as a German- Jew. He goes so far as to claim that he lost a pool tournament because the coordinator might “have [something] against Jews,” an association he would have been unlikely to make in the beginning of the film. As the film progresses, the family becomes more accepting of each other – aiding Jaeckie in his attempts to pay off his debts, albeit in an incredibly unorthodox manner, through a high stakes pool game against a fellow pool shark. However, from the forced attempts at Jewish adherence to aiding Jackie to pay off his debts, the family finds a sense of unity and acceptance. This finally begins to repair the gap caused by Eastern-German affiliations and religious beliefs. Thus, Jackie finds a new identity as a member of the Zuckerman family and a place in the Jewish community.
The film uses Jackie as a tool to demonstrate the problems caused by the division and reunification of Germany, and how it prompted the loss of identity and family. It uses humor to smooth over the otherwise hard edges of a topic that could still be contentious for some and provides a satisfying moral as a result. The overall message provided by the film being that differences can be overcome to reunite a family. Furthermore, Go for Zucker! shows the audience that reunification was not a one step process, and that it still occurs on a smaller level today.