was one of the least dashing-looking world leaders in history, but he became an
iconic symbol of grit and fortitude. He delivered Israel’s declaration of
independence, but he never wrote his memoirs. However, the discovery of hours
of interview footage recorded during his retirement somewhat serves a similar
purpose. That previously unseen footage has been rediscovered, restored, and
shaped by director-writer-producer Yariv Mozer and editor-producer Yael Perlov
into Ben-Gurion: Epilogue (trailer here), the better of two
Israeli-themed documentaries opening today at Film Forum.
do not successfully guide an embattled infant nation through its growing pains
by being a shrinking violet. Indeed, we get a full sample of Ben-Gurion’s
forceful personality in these interviews conducted by academic Clinton Bailey,
a recent immigrant from America, who would later become one of the foremost
authorities on and advocates for traditional Bedouin culture.
their sessions, Ben-Gurion is relaxed, but surprisingly forthcoming and perhaps
less hawkish than some viewers will expect. He admits he may have allowed
himself to get caught up in the triumphant euphoria following Israel’s underdog
victory in the Arab-Israeli War and sounds generally open to the land-for-peace
principle. Yet, he remained an ardent Zionist, who was well-schooled in the
Judaic prophets’ teachings. He was also a genuinely modest man, who preferred to
be called “David” when performing chores around the Sde Boker kibbutz where he
lived out his later years.
supplements Ben-Gurion’s candid reflections with archival media footage,
including a mind-blowing interview conducted by Malcolm Muggeridge (you won’t
find that kind of intellect in today’s media). With a running time that barely
reaches seventy-minutes (by the skin of its teeth), Epilogue is a tightly constructed film that never outstays its welcome.
It should definitely also lead to a greater appreciation for its subject
amongst general audiences.
Unfortunately, Shimon Dotan’s The Settlers (also opening at Film
Forum, but with separate admissions) is not as insightful. Basically, it represents
the Israeli left’s opinions on the Settler movement, in all its snide contempt.
Problematically, it never addresses one of the prime motivations for Settlers
colonizing in the controversial territories—to provide a buffer zone to
discourage terrorism from reaching more populated areas. If you really want to
understand this movement, check out Dmitriy Khavin’s eye-opening The Territory (DVDs for sale here). Ben-Gurion: Epilogue is recommended for
those interested in Israeli history, but The
Settlers is not when both open today (3/3) in New York, at Film Forum.
Labels: David Ben-Gurion, Documentary, Israeli Cinema