Tag Archives: Israel

BEN GURION, EPILOGUE will have its US premiere at the Santa Barbara Int’l Film Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Go2Films is bringing light in the form of the founder of the State of Israel and its first Prime Minister.

At a time of  global leadership crisis, BEN-GURION, EPILOGUE (Israel/France, 2016 | Documentary, 55 min. Director: Yariv Mozer) brings thought-provoking insights about the role of leaders in today’s complex world.

In the great depths of the archive, six hours of interview footage was discovered of one of modern history’s greatest leaders- David Ben-Gurion. It is 1968 and he is 82 years old, five years before his death. He lives in his secluded home in the desert, removed from all political discourse, which allows him a hindsight perspective on the Zionist enterprise. Ben-Gurion’s introspective soul searching is the focus of this film, and his clear voice provides a surprising vision for today’s crucial decisions and the future of Israel.
BEN-GURION, EPILOGUE will be making its U.S. premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF).  The festival will run February 1-11, 2017. SBIFF recently released its film program.

Watch the Trailer

Here’s a poignant review of  BEN-GURION, EPILOGUE by the New York Times’ Isabel Kershner:

Ben-Gurion on Israel, Peace and Back Pain: A Lost Interview Is Brought to Life

KIBBUTZ SDE BOKER, Israel — The rare, intimate and reflective interview with Israel’s founding prime minister was filmed nearly 50 years ago, but it never aired.

David Ben-Gurion, at 82 and five years out of office, spoke in the six-hour interview of state-building and the biblical prophets that guided him; the security imperative of his young nation and Israel’s quest for spiritual and moral superiority; his battle with lower back pain and his interest in Buddhism.

It was April 1968, and “The Old Man,” as Ben-Gurion was nicknamed for much of his life, had been largely abandoned by his own political protégés. Paula, his rather brusque and devoted wife, had died that January, leaving him in near isolation in his chosen retirement home in Sde Boker, a remote communal village in the Negev desert.

“The most important thing which I learned, I learned by living here,” he said. “I want to live in a place when I know that my friends, and myself, we did it. Everything. It’s our creation.”

Watch Ben-Gurion reflecting on the prophets and on turning to God for strength. “God is everywhere,” he said.

He sat for two hours a day, over three consecutive days, and spoke in English. He wore a turtleneck sweater, his casual uniform for cooler days. When the interviewer said he was ready to wrap up the final session, Ben-Gurion protested that they still had 10 minutes to go.

But the reels of silent footage and the soundtrack languished for decades in separate archives. Excerpts from the recently rediscovered conversation form the core of a new documentary, “Ben-Gurion, Epilogue,” in which the Zionist luminary offers a raw, contemplative self-analysis of his life’s work.

Asked if he feared for his country, he replied, “Oh, I always feared. I always. Not just now.” Though it was 20 years after Israel’s founding, he said that he feared “the state does not yet exist. It’s a beginning only.”

Interwoven with other footage from the period — of meetings with foreign leaders, a speech in Israel’s Parliament, birthday celebrations — the film is, in part, a wistful ode to a lost generation of leaders who viewed simplicity as a virtue even as they strove for giant goals.

“There is an absence of leadership with those values and that vision,” said Yariv Mozer, the Israeli writer, director and producer of the movie, which premiered last month at the Jerusalem Film Festival. The film, and the recent book by Avi Shilon on which it is based, Mr. Mozer added, “reflect the interest of some young Israelis to turn back to our history, to our past, in order to find answers for today and maybe for the future.”


Ben-Gurion’s matter-of-fact voice from the grave resonates hauntingly, with its mix of pragmatism and philosophical prescriptions bordering on the prophetic. He described the prophet Jeremiah as one of the greatest because, he said, “I have the feeling that what he was saying is true.”

“He understood politics more than the kings,” Ben-Gurion said. “But he was unpopular.”

Mr. Mozer and Mr. Shilon pointed to the former prime minister’s pronouncements at the time that in return for a true peace, he would give up the territories that Israel conquered in the Arab-Israeli War in 1967, except for the Golan Heights, Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Hebron. He saw no contradiction in believing that Israel had the right to all the land, but could also concede some of it.

“He thought that the most important thing was to live in the Middle East in peace with our neighbors,” Mr. Shilon said. “He said that Israel can win a lot of wars and the Arabs can lose a lot of wars, but that Israel would not be able to stand one defeat; that one lost war would be the end of Israel.” Mr. Shilon added, “The problem with Ben-Gurion was that people stopped listening to him.”

Mr. Mozer and Yael Perlov, the editor and co-producer of the documentary, uncovered the lost interview almost by chance, in the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive in Jerusalem. There, while working to restore an old and unsuccessful feature film about Ben-Gurion by Ms. Perlov’s late father, David Perlov, they tripped across the silent film reels. It took six months to find the soundtrack, which they did in the Ben-Gurion Archives in the Negev.

The interview had actually been conducted as background research for the Perlov film. The former prime minister had chosen the interviewer, Clinton Bailey, who was then a recent immigrant from the United States. Mr. Bailey had been befriended by the Ben-Gurions after Paula invited him in for tea one day when he was wandering near their home in Tel Aviv.

Ben-Gurion helped Mr. Bailey secure a teaching job at the academy he had established at Sde Boker, and Mr. Bailey would sometimes join the aging politician on his brisk walks around the kibbutz.

Mr. Bailey went on to become an eminent scholar of Bedouin culture — and mostly forgot about the 1968 interview. Recalling the period, Mr. Bailey said the simplicity of the Ben-Gurions’ cabin at Sde Boker was “a statement,” adding: “ I don’t think Ben-Gurion wanted the perks of power.”

At Ben-Gurion’s request, the cabin has been preserved and is open to the public. A trickle of Israeli families on school break and foreign tourists passed through on a recent sunbaked weekday.

The man who helped create the modern state of Israel insisted, in his sunset years, on being treated like any other member of the Sde Boker collective and ate lunch in the cramped communal dining room.

“In our kibbutz I told them my name is David,” he said in the interview with Mr. Bailey. “Not Ben-Gurion. So every morning I came to see what David has to do, and I went to do the work. This is what our prophets said, to serve as an example to other people.”


(Kibbutz residents who were there at the time said they gave him the easier jobs, like tending to the lambs and measuring precipitation.)

Archival footage shows Ben-Gurion dedicating the arrival in Sde Boker of the “radiotelephone,” which he called a “dubious blessing.” In another clip, Moshe Feldenkrais, the mind-body clinician, described how he persuaded Ben-Gurion to perform a circuslike physical feat to bring him more in tune with his body, which resulted in Ben-Gurion’s famously photographed headstands.

Ben-Gurion died in 1973, and was buried in a simple grave next to Paula’s on the edge of a stunning desert canyon. His will stipulated no eulogies or gun salute. The tombstone is inscribed only with his name and the dates of his birth, death and immigration to the country.

Settling the Negev, in his mind, was imperative for the young state’s future. It was also a place where he could champion his ideals.

“We wanted to create a new life, not the life that exists,” he said of the Zionist pioneers. “I believed that we had a right to this country. Not taking away from others, but recreating it.”

He had made tough choices along the way, like refusing to allow the return of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war over Israel’s creation, and placing Israel’s Arab citizens under military rule.

Ben-Gurion believed the state’s mission was to fulfill the biblical concept of an “am segulah,” an exemplary nation of higher virtues, treasured by God. Asked in 1968 if Israel was carrying out that mission, he replied: “Not yet.”

(Source: Go2Films)

SBIFF The Showcase Film Series – On The Map

ON THE MAP tells the against-all- odds story of Maccabi Tel Aviv’s 1977 European Championship, which took place at a time when the Middle East was still reeling from the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1972 Olympic massacre at Munich, and the 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight from Tel Aviv. Through the of lens of sports, ON THE MAP presents a much broader story of how one team captured the heart of a nation amidst domestic turmoil and the global machinations of the Cold War.


Written and Directed by Dani Menkin
Starring Tal Brody, David Stern, Bill Walton
Country of Origin: USA
Running Time: 85 min

Sunday, December 11 @ 2:00pm
Monday, December 12 @ 7:30pm
Tuesday, December 13 @ 5:00pm
Wednesday, December 14 @ 7:30pm
at the Riviera Theatre – 2044 Alameda Padre Serra

Click here for tickets.

“There’s no surer ingredient for a feel-good documentary than an inspirational sports story, and filmmaker Dani Menkin delivers one in spades with his recounting of the 1979 European Cup victory by the national Israeli basketball team.”
Frank Scheck – Hollywood Reporter

“On the Map, a documentary about Maccabi Tel Aviv’s improbable success in the 1977 edition of the tourney, is a feel-good Cinderella story, the real-life details are at least apropo of this kind of athletic fairy tale.”
Michael Nordine – Village Voice/L.A.Weekly

“Menkin has been especially thorough in telling
this classic against-all-odds sports story.”
Kenneth Turan – LA Times

(Source: sbiff.org)

FILM CAPSULE: Circus Kids (Alexandra Lipsitz, 2010): Israel | USA

By Larry Gleeson

Viewed at the Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood, Calif., AFI film festival 2010.

bxry2prcA new documentary, Circus Kids, directed by Alexandra Lipsitz, made its second stop on the festival route in Los Angeles, CA during the AFIfest. Last month Lipsitz debuted Circus Kids at the Chicago International Film Festival. The film follows a group of young circus performers, known as the St. Louis Arches, aged 7-17 from St. Louis, Missouri as they are invited to travel to Israel and to perform with a Israeli/Palestinian kids circus troupe known as the Galilee Children’s Circus.

For most of the Arches, many of whom are from broken homes, it is the first time traveling abroad. Israel is at war. One of the Arches does not receive parental permission to make the trip. Jessica Hentoff, a lifelong circus performer, organized the trip and tells the camera she views the role of the Arches as “peace ambassadors.” Hentoff sees the circus arts as a vehicle to encourage social change here and abroad.

The Galilee Circus is comprised of both Israeli and Palestinian children. The mission of the Galilee Circus is to foster collaboration among the warring cultures and to focus on their cultural similarities and to work toward creating positive solutions.

Jose Guzman edits the film and uses graphic aids in telling this children’s story. His visuals include cartoonish animations depicting airplanes, similar to Man on Wire depictions, flying to and from Tel Aviv, and a bus as it traverses the Israeli countryside. The children exchange circus tricks and performances. The Arches are astounding acrobats but don’t have the baton twirling gifts of the Galileans.

Lipsitz captures her own footage with her own camera. The viewer is treated to a display of teen angst, including a retelling of a performers first kiss, while watching two circus groups separated by a language barrier come together as one strong performing unit.

At the  end of the tour a tearful goodbye is captured as the Arches must return to St. Louis. They are wished well with promises that the Galileans will come to St. Louis for another successful performance collaboration.


Note from Roger Durling

Dear Cinephiles,

L’Shana Tova!  This week we’re featuring SAND STORM – Israel’s official submission to this past year’s Academy Award.  The film takes place in a Bedouin village in Southern Israel – and it’s rich in cultural specifics.  But it’s themes are so universal.  It gives a powerful – clear–eyed look at the inequalities facing women in that part of the world.
Below is a review from Variety.  It plays tonight at 5:00pm and tomorrow at 7:30pm at the Riviera Theatre.

Get tickets here!

See you at the movies!
Roger Durling


A sympathetic but clear-eyed look at the inequalities that entrap women (and the men they love and resent) in a Bedouin village.
By Ella Taylor – Variety

On the face of it, “Sand Storm” presents a familiar feminist tale of a teenaged girl trapped between her desire to control her destiny and the constraints of her traditional family. Yet this emotionally intelligent first feature offers a sympathetic but clear-eyed look at the tangled skein of inequalities that entrap women (and the men they love and resent) in a Bedouin village stranded between modernization and anachronistic patriarchy. Written and directed by a Jewish Israeli woman, Elite Zexer, and made with a Jewish-Arab crew, the film boasts alluring desert visuals, muscular acting and intricate psychology that should attract audiences for women’s movies, foreign art films and those who believe that melodrama still has a place in cinema.

Men are not permitted at a Bedouin celebration in Southern Israel to welcome (with variable enthusiasm) the arrival of a second wife. Instead the older women wear fake mustaches, one of many striking images in “Sand Storm” that address the crucible of anger and pain that simmers beneath the revelry. Jalila (Ruba Blal-Asfour), the man’s first wife, glowers magnificently, and not just because she’s going to have to share power with the younger newcomer. Discovering that her daughter, Layla (Lamis Ammar), has a secret lover at school, Jalila freaks out at first, then defends Layla to her father, Suliman (Haitham Omari), who has given his eldest child many modern advantages — a cell phone, driving lessons, an education — and yet, for his own murky reasons, shows willing to sacrifice her future to an arranged marriage to a village man she barely knows.

At once autocratic and weak, Suliman props up an archaic social structure in which men call the shots but women clean up the messes. Ammar makes a charmingly frisky Layla, but the energy of “Sand Storm” surely belongs to Blal-Asfour as her mother, a caged tiger who smolders and paces and deliver tongue-lashings to her hapless conformist of a husband as needed. Rail as they might, Jalila and Layla remain caught between loyalty to their disintegrating family and an emerging hunger for autonomy and experience that are prohibited by their medieval fate. Those fake mustaches signal both strength and vulnerability, and the movie captures the stark beauty of the Negev desert where this traditionally nomadic tribe has put down roots, marred by a pervasive sense of entrapment for the young woman who’s both deeply attached to her mother and sisters, and desperate to fly the coop.

The handheld camerawork can be rough at times, and here and there Zexer steps a little heavily on the pedal of metaphor: A long tunnel works a touch too hard to flag Layla’s struggle between freedom and family duty. But the director juggles different points of view with aplomb, and her strong script addresses with impressive subtlety the gap between what people say and what they do under extreme pressure.

The strands of her narrative come together to show how everyone is left the loser in polygamous marriage, a divide-and-rule institution that pits not only husband and wife against one another, but also women who would otherwise be inclined to mutual support. Mercifully there’s no Hollywood ending here, only a bracing touch of mordant humor about interior decor that has the discreet hum of groundwork being laid, and rebellions yet to come.