American actor Luzar Tversky talked about his role in “Dovbush”

American actor Luzar Tversky talked about his role in “Dovbush”

In the last days of August, Hasidic Jews celebrated the birthday of the founder of Hasidism, a native of Ternopil Baal Shema Tova, or Beshta for short. Ukrainians have the opportunity to see the cinematic embodiment of this hero of many Jewish legends in the picture “Dovbush”. Film director Oles Sanin gave Besht the role of a savior: a recluse Jew saves another hero of legends the famous oprysh Oleksa Dovbush.

Around the date of the celebration of the righteous man’s birth, the performer of the role of Beshta is a Hollywood actor Luzar Tversky came to Ukraine. He is a direct descendant of the Baal Shem Tov and during the filming of the movie “Dovbush” he had the opportunity to visit his historical homeland for the first time. For the premiere of the film, Luzar came to Kyiv for a day, and later went to Kharkiv, where he had never been.

Special for UP. Life about the embodiment of Besht’s image with an American actor Luzar Tverskyand also talked with director Oles Sanin in Kharkiv Daria Lobanok.


There are still 40 minutes to the premiere of “Dovbush”, the organizers roll out the red carpet and put up a banner with the title of the film, and the entrance hall of the Multiplex cinema is already full of viewers. Actors and crew members appear gradually.

Oles Sanin meets the guests and tells about his new job to the people gathered around. Cinema staff informs what to do during an air alert. Visitors listen to this with smiles. In the end, watching a movie does without emergencies.

Actor Luzar Tverski (in the center) attended the presentation of “Dovbush” in Kharkiv. Photo: Ivan Samoilov

After watching, almost all viewers stay to chat with the film crew the story of the Carpathian hero of legends is also close to Slobodan residents. The girl from the hall voices her impression: this film has many allusions to the present, and the main character inspires the fight for the people and their freedom.

Among the members of the film crew communicating with the audience, my attention is drawn to the American actor Luzar Tversky, who played a Jewish hermit in the film who saves the main character. His character Besht actually saves Dovbush and reveals to the audience the hitherto unknown story of the relationship between the Jewish saint and the Carpathian rebel.

“Every Jew knows the name Besht this is one of the holiest people” says the director Oles Sanin. He says that while working on the film, he discovered a great Jewish epic in which Besht preaches to his students, holding a pipe of Ukrainian opryshka in his hands.

In “Dovbush”, the director decided to combine two legendary figures in one story.


“While researching the story of Oleksa Dovbush, I discovered another great epic about the fact that he had a Jewish friend who lived in the mountains, was a dodger, ran away from people, dug up clay, slaked lime and sold it in the bazaar. At the same time, he was a great sage”— explains Sanin.

Oleksa Dovbush lived in 1700–1745. In the same period, the founder of the Hasidic Jewish movement Israel ben Eliezer, better known as the Baal Shem Tov (“Lord of the Good Name”) or Besht for short, lived and preached in Ukraine.

Luzar Tverski (right) as Beshta. Photo: a frame from the movie “Dovbush”

Sanin was interested in this story and decided to find a Hasidic actor for the role of Besht. To make sure that he was a real adept of this current, Sanin asked the casting participants to sing a nigun – a Jewish religious song.

“I was told that it is impossible to find a Hasidic actor, since they are not engaged in creativity, they are not even allowed to watch cartoons. But later we still managed to get Luzar Tversky. We communicated with him on video, and when I heard him sing niguns, I understood that he is suitable for the role. And already after signing the contract, Luzar wrote to me that he is a direct descendant of Besht in the 9th generation.”– says the director of “Dovbusha” enthusiastically.

In the film, Besht becomes a Guide for the main character. According to ancient legends, the relationship between these characters was similar to the energy of repulsion and attraction of the two brothers from the first book of the Pentateuch – Jacob and Esau. Dovbush is a symbol of physical strength and courage, and Besht is the personification of wisdom and spiritual strength.

Blue-eyed and open to communication, Tversky is visiting the homeland of his illustrious ancestor for the fourth time. He was here with his family for the first time in 1999 and 2009, and in 2021 – during the filming of a movie. Today, at the premiere, he himself volunteered to go with the film crew to Kharkiv – the organizers did not plan that a Hollywood actor would dare to go to this eastern Ukrainian city.

Here in Kharkiv, Luzar communicates with me in Ukrainian. He tells how he wanted to meet the audience in person and thank them for continuing to go to wartime movies and supporting each other. It is a great honor for him to be present in this city today and to see brave people who, despite everything, continue to live in Kharkiv: to create and develop their own city.

A scene from the movie “Dovbush”, where Besht (Luzar Tversky) talks to Oleksa Dovbush (Serhii Strelnikov). Photo: still from the film

“I just came from America. I used to see beautiful landscapes. And here, in Kharkiv, I see that life goes on”, – says Luzar, smiling. We are trying to find a quiet place amidst the human noise around us to talk about the actor’s family and his participation in the filming of “Dovbush”.

Actor Luzar Tversky, as befits a Hasidic and Besht descendant, grew up in an ultra-Orthodox religious community in Brooklyn, New York. Members of this community are indeed poorly integrated into American society, may not speak English, and may not be involved in the entertainment industry. But eventually Luzar grew up, left his community and went to play in the movies.

Read also: “With a bow on a bandura”, or the history of creating music for the movie “Dovbush”

Besht has different meanings – one for Hutsuls, another for Jews, Luzar explains.

“There are no historical documents that would reflect this person objectively, although he was of great importance to various communities. Of course, not everyone will be satisfied, but it was important for me to convey the emotional component of this person. I myself nervous person, and I had to show calmness, convey this spiritual meditation”– says Luzar.

It was also technically difficult to convey the calmness of the hero. In the first scene of the meeting between Dovbush and Besht, the righteous man is bathing in a mountain river. Luzar recalls that the current was swift and the water icy. Firstly, it was difficult not to tremble, secondly, the current could carry away, and it was necessary to use considerable force to stay in one place in the frame.

American actor Luzar Tversky came to Kharkiv. Photo: Ivan Samoilov

“It was very cold, and I couldn’t shake, because I had to convey inner peace and I stood and froze. I needed an extraordinary level of concentration, and for that I hummed Hasidic tunes in my head.” Luzar recalls.

In order to play a real person, about whom almost no information has been preserved, Luzar had to research his character on his own. In particular, he communicated with American researchers of that historical period Henry Amborson and Yohan Petrovski.

A scene from a movie that alludes to the biblical Last Supper. In the center – Oleksiy Hnatkovsky in the role of Ivan Dovbush. Photo: still from the film

The most difficult thing was to understand the Ukrainian language: to learn pronunciation and words, because Luzar himself voiced his character. They helped him with Ukrainian pronunciation Oleksiy Hnatovskyi, who played the role of Ivan Dovbush and the tutor Tamara Shevchenko from Kyiv.

“I worked with Tamara in Zoom every day. The Ukrainian language has a lot of sounds that are not inherent in English, so it was difficult to learn. But my tutor was consistent and patient with me and helped me. I spent two hours every day learning Ukrainian.”– shares Tversky.

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However, the accent is felt in the film itself. The actor says that he consulted with Professor Petrovsky – what accent of Yiddish in the Ukrainian language was inherent in Transcarpathia in the 17th and 18th centuries.

It was an incredible luck and honor for Luzar to play the role of his ancestor: “Imagine how many times in your life you’ve been approached and asked to play your ancestor, who is one of the greatest figures in the Jewish religion. It’s like being approached and asked if you can play the role of Jesus Christ… Some Jews will scolding me for it is all the same.”

“Actually, Besht left very little written record of himself. There are no chronicles, no photographs. The only thing that definitely exists a document that proves his birth and what he did sold amulets and was a healer. We do not know for sure, although there is certain evidence from the Ukrainian and Jewish sides that they (Oleksa Dovbush and Besht – ed.) still met.”– continues Luzar’s thoughts.

According to the actor, working with the Ukrainian team was incredible. He was most surprised by the fact that the director undertook the work with such a small budget: “It’s like making Game of Thrones, but with the budget of a small documentary. To get a movie of this caliber out of this incredible”– Luzar is impressed.

He added that in America they would hardly have taken up the work for the film with such a “modest” amount: “And there is such passion and creativity. To create such a tape, you need purposeful people who really know what they want. I have never seen such a talent pool anywhere.”

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For the first time, Luzar Tversky saw the film without subtitles and says that it was difficult to understand everything. He also adds that while watching, he plunged into childhood memories of the first time he went to the cinema.

“It reminded me of the old days, when I still knew little English and had never seen movies. Watching Dovbush brought back memories of watching the first movie when I was still a teenager. I sat in the cinema and still did not understand anything. But I had such a strange feeling and emotion the miracle I saw then. I thought that such emotions you experience once in a lifetime, but this tape made me feel it again the magic and wonder of cinema”– said Luzar.

Luzar says that if he manages to stay in Ukraine until the Jewish New Year, he would like to visit Uman. “Although I’m not that religious anymore, I like rituals it would be interesting to see”says the actor.

Luzar had already visited Uman before. He says that he watches with interest how Ukraine changes between his trips here. Currently, the actor was most surprised by how many Tesla cars drive here.

– Maybe you will move to live in Ukraine?

– Do not encourage, – Luzar laughs. – I have a large family that will be against it.

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