Sunday, October 20, 2013

Movie with Abe: The Prime Ministers

The Prime Ministers
Directed by Richard Trank
Released October 18, 2013

Films about Israel these days are often very hot-button and controversial. That’s doubly true of documentaries, especially last year’s banner year for the Oscars, which nominated two nonfiction films about current events in the Middle East, “5 Broken Cameras” and “The Gatekeepers.” The first was a scathing indictment of military treatment of Palestinian freedom fighters, while the second exposed the surprising views of the former heads of the Israeli Secret Service about the treatment of Palestinians. This chronicle of Israeli history and its leaders as seen through the eyes of one advisor is far less incendiary, and instead serves as an occasionally enticing look at crucial events in the country’s life.

This adaptation of Ambassador Yehuda Avner’s book, “The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership,” examines some of the most transformational moments of Israel throughout the past sixty-five years. Its wars in particular are covered in great depth, and it’s hard to be drawn in by the intensity of the unlikely nature of Israeli victory in any given situation. Throughout every administration, the mentality is the same: the State of Israel will survive and persevere just like the Jewish people have for so many years.

“The Prime Ministers” comes from Moriah Films, directed by Richard Trank and produced by the token rabbi member of AMPAS, Rabbi Marvin Hier. Like the company’s previous production, “It Is No Dream,” big-name actors are enlisted to provide the voices of its characters. Christoph Waltz, who voiced Herzl, is on tap as Menachem Begin, Leonard Nimoy as Levi Eshkol, Sandra Bullock as Golda Meir, and Michael Douglas as Yitzhak Rabin. Having familiar actors read the memorable lines of these historical figures is effective to a point, but doesn’t always do them justice.

It’s refreshing if nothing else to see a film that presents a country’s colorful history without much negativity, instead identifying the differences in strategy and outlook from various leaders. A film that doesn’t demonize Israel is a rare and important one, but it would have been exciting if this film was more evenly gripping and involving. Instead, “The Prime Ministers” comes close to doing something very interesting, but in presenting too wide a scope from a source who doesn’t seem like the best person to report on all of their activities. Nonetheless, it is a decent documentary with a positive message about its featured nation.


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