Friday, January 30, 2015

Movie with Abe: Above and Beyond

Above and Beyond
Directed by Roberta Grossman
Released January 30, 2015

I often start my reviews of documentaries by considering what type of nonfiction film it is and what its desired goal or impact may be. In the case of “Above and Beyond,” listed on IMDB as belonging to the documentary, adventure, and history genres, it’s a showcase of an unknown history of a crucial part of the foundation of Israel, which as a country in under seventy years could spawn thousands of documentaries about a number of issues. This film, however, pertains only to one incredible piece of its past – the wild and unbelievable beginnings of the Israeli air force.

There isn’t much need for introduction in this film, which presents interviews with a number of American World War II pilots who detail their enthusiasm at covertly flying planes leftover from the war to Israel to help create an air force that was all but impossible to put together. These old men gleefully discuss the excitement and sheer recklessness of flying a small plane overseas for eleven hours with no certainty that they would make it to their destinations and little knowledge of what might await them when they arrived. More than anything, it’s an incredible story, and it’s a treat to see these endearing veterans fondly recall the brave and heroic actions they were undertaking.

Any film about Israel is sure to create controversy simply because that seems to be the nature of the region, yet this one is so deeply rooted in the past and mostly disconnected from any intense conflicts. The state of affairs, including the expiration of the British Mandate of Palestine and the impending attack on the new state by surrounding Arab nations, is detailed as background, and the American interviewees explain how they took part by offering aid and their own expertise to help tip the scales in the direction of the decided underdog.

There is a certain sense of nostalgia that pervades “Above and Beyond,” where those who had just finished fighting a war decided to fight for someone that didn’t inherently relate to them and to invest in an enterprise that no one would imagine could be successful. It’s an inspiring and energizing story, and the simplicity with which this team seems to have pulled off some daring feats is simply astonishing. This is a documentary that’s educational, fun, and highly uplifting, well worth watching for anyone who deems its premise even mildly interesting.


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