Dir.: Yariv Mozer; Documentary with David Ben-Gurion; Israel/France/Germany 2016, 70 min.
The majority of Yariv Mozer biopic’s focuses on his six hour b/w interview with the Jewish leader David Ben-Gurion in 1968, intended as the basis of a feature film about the ex-premier’s life. This film was released in 1970, but faded without impact. The British film crew who shot the interview in the spartan Side Boker kibbutz, had to build a new set with an extensive library, to create a background fitting the profile of the man who founded modern Israel as its first Prime Minister for 13 years, before rather abruptly resigning from government in 1963, when he was Minister of Defence.
1968 marked the 20th year since the founding of Israel, and Ben-Gurion, who came to what was then Palestine (a British Protectorate) from Poland, at the turn of the 20th century, lived there during the era when Zionism was not a combative ideology, let alone an imperialistic one. As far as 1948 goes, Ben-Gurion states unequivocally: “I believed we had the right to this country. Not taking it away from others, but recreating it.” But one year after the 1967 war, the same man wanted “to give most of the territories gained in that war back in exchange for peace”. That this never happened, he somehow foresaw, talking about the government he had left: “You are not considering the future, you are only considering the present.”
Documentary evidence about life during Ben-Gurion’s time show the changes in society from early settlements to state-building. But Ben-Gurion is alwys modest: “I did not guide Israel, I guided myself”. He was always a voracious reader, and as an eight year old boy, he was enthusiastic about Mark Twain’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The documentary is enriched with excerpts from some of his great Knesset speeches, and meetings with Ray Charles and Albert Einstein.
The six-hour original was found in the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive without an audio, which was later discovered in the Ben-Gurion Archive in Negev. The only criticism here is that the film seems rather short on material. It would provide an ideal companion piece for the Israeli documentary The Settlers, directed by Shimon Dotan, which tells the story of Rabbi Moshe Levenger and his followers, who started building settlements in Israeli occupied territories, making it now nearly impossible for a Palestinian state to exist. Neither consecutive Israeli governments, nor their USA counterparts have stopped this movement, which is in direct contradiction of the Geneva Convention. Ben-Gurion was certainly a little biased when talking of “not taking away from others”, yet in 1968, there was still a chance of “recreation”. But since, the dream of Theodor Herzl has ended up in a cul-de-sac of a Sparta in the desert, because Israel “did not consider the future”. AS
SCREENING DURING UK JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL 9 – 26 NOVEMBER 2017