Herzl once advocated mass Jewish conversion to Christianity, but would become a
unifying leader for the Jewish Diaspora.
Profoundly concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism, his fears would be
dreadfully justified in the years soon following his death. Yet, they provided the early impetus for the
Zionist movement that ultimately led to the founding of the State of
Israel. His life and mission are
documented in Richard Trank’s It is No Dream: The Life of Theodor Herzl (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
believed if a wave anti-Semitic could sweep across France, the cultural capitol
of Europe in the 1890’s—and it was—it could happen anywhere. Never particularly religious, covering the
Dreyfus Affair as a journalist forced Herzl to take stock of his own Jewish
heritage and seriously address the increasing volume of European
anti-Semitism. His early ideas proved
impractical on further reflection, but the notion of a sovereign Jewish state
(not original to Herzl) remained a viable option.
the remaining years of his life, Herzl became the preeminent leader of the movement
forge a Jewish homeland, making his case to some of Europe’s most influential
power brokers, including the Kaiser. For
Herzl, the only question was where.
Eventually, the colonial territory entrusted to England by a League of
Nations mandate, known at the time as “Palestine,” became the obvious choice,
given the Jewish people’s deep roots to the region. However, Herzl was appalled by the
backwardness and poverty of the British Mandate during his first visit. Still, this did not disqualify the small
tract of land from consideration. Arguably,
it made even more sense on several levels.
by Moriah Films, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s film production subsidiary, Dream is a welcome and necessary
antidote to malicious attempts to make “Zionism” a dirty word in the
media. Trank and co-writer-co-producer
Rabbi Marvin Hier clearly illustrate the alarming nature of anti-Semitism
during Herzl’s lifetime, largely leaving unspoken (but ever-present in viewer’s
minds) the enormity of the Holocaust, which would tragically vindicate all his
by Academy Award winner Sir Ben Kingsley, with fellow Oscar winner Christoph
Waltz giving voice to Herzl’s letters and writings, Dream has a fair amount of star power for a serious historical
documentary. With an elegant score
composed and conducted by the Emmy winning Lee Holdridge (whose credits
including Moonlighting), Dream is a pretty prestigious package,
but the real attraction is Herzl’s short but epic life-story, which will
probably come as a revelation to many viewers outside the Jewish faith. Though perhaps not the target market, it is
those viewers of good will not especially schooled in Jewish history who would
get the most out of the film.
Consistently fascinating and never dry, Dream tells a compelling story that
remains only too timely for the world today.
Well paced and informative, It is
No Dream is recommended for general audiences, regardless of religion or
political affiliation, when it opens this Friday (8/10) in New York at the Quad
Labels: Christoph Waltz, Documentary, Moriah Films, Sir Ben Kingsley, Theodor Herzl